What Are Sebaceous Cysts and How to Treat Them

Sebaceous cyst on the back of a woman's neck What Are Sebaceous Cysts and How to Treat Them

Skin growths come in many forms -- cysts happen to be one of them. Many types of cysts exist, too, some of them occurring deep within the body, never making an appearance on the skin at all. Others, however, such as sebaceous cysts, aren’t so shy, and their presence can lead one to feel self-conscious. If left unchecked, sebaceous cysts can become painful. On the plus-side, the often conspicuous nature of sebaceous cysts at least makes them easy to identify, which is the first step in treating them.

So, what exactly are sebaceous cysts? Do they pose a major health risk? And how can they be treated? Let’s discuss these matters.

What is a Sebaceous Cyst and How to Treat it

A cyst is a type of growth that is filled with some sort of liquid or semiliquid material. Sebaceous cysts in particular contain a buildup of sebum, a white-yellow oily substance produced by one’s sebaceous glands. Sebaceous cysts form when the sebaceous gland either gets blocked or damaged, typically due to trauma (i.e. scratch, wound, or skin condition) and then gets backed up with sebum. These cysts often form on the face, neck, scalp, and/or back, and they’re usually soft.

Excess production of sebum can also lead to acne, but it’s worth noting that sebaceous cysts and acne are two distinct phenomena that simply share a root cause. Your dermatologist will be able to distinguish a sebaceous cyst from a pimple using tests such ast CT scans, ultrasounds, or punch biopsies. Telling acne and cysts apart is necessary for receiving proper treatment.

Are Sebaceous Cysts Dangerous?

Fortunately, most sebaceous cysts fall under the category of benign cyst, meaning non-cancerous. In other words, the presence of a sebaceous cyst isn’t typically life-threatening, but as mentioned earlier, these growths can still cause irritation and pain, especially if they’re relatively large. Sebaceous cysts can also affect one’s mental and emotional state for the worse, so removing them should be a priority for most people.

Treating/Eliminating Sebaceous Cysts

Considering that a cyst consists of excess fluid, it makes sense that draining a cyst would be the primary method of removal. While drainage is indeed a key part of the process, dermatologists typically also recommend surgical excision to eliminate the cyst and prevent it from returning -- merely draining the cyst does not guarantee its total eradication. Surgical removal options include:

  • Conventional wide excision -- this often causes some scarring
  • Minimal excision -- this usually results in minimal to no scarring
  • Laser with punch biopsy excision -- this process creates a hole in the skin to facilitate drainage

Following any of these removal procedures, patients may be directed to apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound to prevent infection, and/or scar cream to minimize scarring.

Though they’re not a major health concern, sebaceous cysts aren’t exactly desirable. Fortunately, these cysts are usually easily drained and removed by professional dermatologists. At Premier Dermatology Partners, our skin care experts are here to help you identify and treat all of your skin concerns and conditions, including sebaceous cysts. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.

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