A sebaceous cyst is a pus filled lesion that is filled with a fatty white semi solid material medially referred to as sebum. The material in the cyst has been likened to cheese or an oily substance. A sebaceous cyst most likely arises from a swollen hair follicle. They are usually found around the neck or around the face, sometimes on the trunk of the body and in rare cases, in the genital area. A sebaceous cyst is a slow growing and painless bump and is characterized as a movable lump under the skin. There are occasions where the cyst will become tender and sore with redness associated with it as well.
A sebaceous cyst can be categorized as an epidermis cyst and can have some unusual symptoms. They are round small bumps that are easy to move around under the skin with fingers. They usually have white or yellow coloring to them although people with dark skin may have a pigmented cyst. A sebaceous cyst can range in size from less than a quarter of an inch to nearly two inches in diameter, most of the time they have a central opening which is a place where the hair follicle should be. A sebaceous cyst may be squeezed to eject thick, cheesy material through the opening where the hair follicle was. However it must be strongly urged not to do this because the risk of infection and scarring becomes higher. It is best to let a dermatologist handle the removal of the cyst.
A sebaceous cyst can easily become infected and when it occurs, can include a thick yellowish material that drains from the cyst. This material is associated with a foul odor and is coupled by redness, swelling and tenderness where the cyst is. Sometimes a sebaceous cyst is misdiagnosed because there are small bumps that could look like a cyst when in actuality it is something different. It is important to see a doctor to diagnose a sebaceous cyst even though they are not harmful. If a cyst grows rapidly, ruptures or becomes painful or perhaps grows in a spot that is often or constantly irritated, a doctor should be consulted.
The symptoms of sebaceous cysts are:
- Lump underneath the skin
- White, yellow, or flesh-tone in color
- Slow growing
- Usually small in size, but can grow to the size of a golf ball over many years
- Painless, unless they rupture or become infected
- Filled with a thick, yellow substance with bad odor
These cysts tend to develop in:
- Upper back
- Back of neck
If the cysts are infected, they become:
- Red in color
- Tender and painful
Treatment for Sebaceous Cysts
Infected cysts may require:
- Surgical drainage
- Warm compress
- Surgical removal
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