Sebaceous cyst: What you need to know about this subcutaneous lump?

A sebaceous cyst, is a common skin condition that many of us may encounter at some point in our lives. Let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon and find out what it is, why it develops, and what you can do about it.

This cyst occurs when the exit of a hair follicle becomes blocked. Sebum, the oily substance that moisturizes the skin, cannot flow out and builds up, forming a cyst under the skin.

Sebaceous Cyst

Sebaceous cysts are the most common skin cysts and usually occur in the third and fourth decades of life. It is rare to find these cysts before puberty. They are mainly found in men compared to women (2:1 ratio). In the neonatal period, small epidermoid cysts are common.

The exact cause of sebaceous cysts is not known, but several factors can increase the risk of their occurrence. These factors include:

  • Hormonal changes:Sebaceous cysts are more common in people with high hormone levels, such as women of childbearing age and men who use anabolic steroids.
  • Genetics: These cysts are more common in people with a family history of this condition.
  • Excessive production of sebum: People with excessive production of sebum have a greater risk of developing sebaceous cysts.
  • Exposure to bacteria: Bacteria can infect a clogged sebaceous gland, causing an abscess.

In Favre-Racouchot syndrome, a condition that occurs in older people, sebaceous cysts can develop due to frequent sun exposure. People who take medications called BRAF inhibitors may develop cysts on their face. And it has also been noted that certain medications such as imiquimod and cyclosporine can cause these cysts.

Recently, ultraviolet (UV) radiation and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection have been suggested as possible causes of these cysts. Approximately 1% of atheroma cysts could undergo malignant transformation to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC).

Sebaceous cysts manifest as one or more skin growths ranging in size from 0.5 to 3 cm. These growths usually have a round to oval shape and often feel firm, with a color that matches the skin color. They usually show clear boundaries and are movable relative to the underlying skin tissue.

Although the cysts usually occur on the face, neck and trunk, they can occur on any part of the body, including the hairy head, scrotum, genitals, fingers and in some cases in the buccal mucosa. In general, sebaceous cysts do not cause any discomfort.

Although sebaceous cysts are usually harmless, it is important to know what can happen if you don’t do anything about them. These cysts can increase in size and eventually cause discomfort. Imagine that you have a small bump on your skin that is slowly getting bigger. If left unchecked, this can add more pressure and even become painful.

Another thing to be aware of is that these cysts can become inflamed or infected. This means that there may be some kind of inflammatory response in your body, which can lead to redness, swelling, and pain around the cyst. It’s like an alarm signal from your body that something is not quite right.

So, while it may not always be necessary to do something about these cysts right away, it’s important to know that complications can arise if you ignore them. If you notice that they are getting bigger or if you experience pain, it is wise to seek medical attention. This way you can tackle any problems and ensure that your skin remains healthy.

It is tempting to take action yourself if you notice a cyst. It is very important not to squeeze out atheroma cysts yourself. By squeezing yourself you risk pushing bacteria into the cyst, which can lead to an infection.

It is much safer to consult a doctor, for example a dermatologist, to remove the cyst. Doctors have the expertise to remove the cyst safely, significantly reducing the risk of infection. However, in some cases, removal of the cyst may require minor surgery.

The most effective treatment involves complete surgical removal of the cyst, leaving the wall of the cyst intact. The anesthetic should be administered around the cyst, avoiding direct injection into the cyst. A small elliptical incision with inclusion of the central nucleus or punctum can be used.

For an optimal cosmetic outcome, it is important to place the incision in the natural tension lines of the skin. However, it is important to remove the entire cyst wall to reduce the risk of recurrence. When it cracks, a pungent odor emanates and a yellowish, cheesy material emerges.

Sebaceous Cyst Surgery – Not Suitable For Everyone

Find out more about hidradenitis suppurativa, a condition similar to acne that causes inflammation in the body folds, especially the armpits and groin. It can also occur under or between the breasts, near the genitals, the area around the anus and the buttocks. The condition usually begins during or after puberty and is more common in women than men.

For more information about hidradenitis suppurativa

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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