Nearly everyone develops one or more skin cysts at some point in life. Skin cysts most often form because of a localized infection, clogged sebaceous glands, or around a foreign body, such as an earring. Risk factors for cysts include skin irritations like shaving, having infected hair follicles or acne, and injuring the skin.
Smooth bumps on the outside, cysts are internally filled with fluid, pus or other material. They differ from pimples in that their external surface is hard and seemingly impenetrable; cysts feel like tiny round pebbles under the skin. Some cysts disappear on their own, but most remain for a prolonged period. While cysts are slow-growing, harmless, and usually painless, patients sometimes want them removed because they are unsightly or annoying.
Types of Cysts
There are two basic types of cysts: epidermoid and pilar (formerly known as sebaceous). Epidermoid cysts are comprised of keratin (a kind of protein) and fat. Typically, epidermoid cysts appear on the face and upper body, particularly the neck, chest, and shoulders. Most frequently these skin eruptions are the result of acne or mild injuries to the skin. They are more common in men than women. When cysts form due to a swelling around hair follicles, they are referred to as pilar cysts. Pilar cysts most often appear on the scalp.
When Cysts Require Removal
At times, cysts become painful, due to infection or inflammation. At such times, they should be removed by a dermatologist. Patients may also ask that their skin cysts be removed because they are unsightly or inconvenient, for example getting snagged in the teeth of a comb.
Methods of Cyst Removal
There are three primary methods of removing cysts. Your dermatologist will determine which method is appropriate based on the type of your cyst and its location. Methods of cyst removal are:
- Drainage by piercing the cyst with a sharp instrument and squeezing out its contents>
- Administration of cortisone by injection to shrink the targeted tissue>
- Surgical removal by excising the entire cyst
Prior to most cyst removal procedures, your dermatologist will first numb the area with a local anesthetic. Cysts can grow back after any type of removal, but are least likely to recur after surgical excision.
You should be aware that since cysts are not cancerous, none of these methods puts you in danger of spreading a malignancy. If your doctor suspects that the bump is anything other than a cyst, he or she will biopsy a sample of the tissue to make sure it is non-malignant before proceeding. On the other hand, if your cyst has become infected, you may have to be treated with topical and/or oral antibiotics. If the infection is particularly bad, your dermatologist may administer antibiotics before performing an excision.
Cyst Removal Is Not a Do-It-Yourself Project
Though most of us have dealt with occasional pimples on our own, cysts are more complicated. Because of their shell-like exterior, they cannot be simply “popped.” Apart from the likelihood that you will create more of a problem, either by spreading infection or injuring healthy tissue, it is likely that self-treatment will result in the regrowth of the cyst so, at best, you will end up back where you started.
Why You Should Contact Unique Dermatology & Wellness Center
Your skin is the protective shield of your whole body, a covering to be respected and carefully tended. This is a good reason to bring any irritating, painful, unattractive, or suspicious skin lesions to the attention of a highly qualified dermatologist like Dr. Harvey. She is a concerned and capable physician who will provide you with an accurate diagnosis, first-rate treatment, and a sense of general well-being whenever you visit her office.