Epidermoid Cysts (Sebaceous Cysts)

Epidermoid cysts are some of the most common benign growths that can develop beneath the skin’s surface. These growths commonly occur on the face, neck and trunk of the body and are often painless. They usually do not require treatment unless pain or other complications develop.

Causes of Epidermoid Cysts

Often resulting from damaged hair follicles or oil glands, these cysts can develop when skin cells on top of the skin move deep beneath the surface and multiply instead of shedding off as they die. These cells form a wall for the cyst and then secrete a protein known as keratin into the cyst's center, which causes it to grow. If growths form from the sebaceous glands that keep the hair and skin lubricated, they are referred to as sebaceous cysts.

People who are past the age of puberty, have a history of acne or sustained a skin injury are more susceptible to developing these growths. Rare genetic conditions can also cause these cysts.

Common Symptoms

The most common symptom of an epidermoid cyst is a small and round-shaped bump that forms underneath the top layer of skin. The cyst may also have a small blackhead that blocks its central opening. If the cyst becomes infected, it may feel tender and swollen and possibly develop some inflammation. Thick and yellow fluid that emits an unpleasant odor may also leak from the growth.

Possible Complications

Although usually harmless, epidermoid cysts can lead to certain complications. If the growth rapidly increases in size or causes pain or discomfort, it is advisable to seek medical attention. The cyst may also rupture or form on an area of the body that is prone to irritation. Some people also choose to have these growths removed for aesthetic purposes. Skin cancer has developed in some rare cases.

Treatment Options

Epidermoid cysts can be removed by minor surgery or with the use of laser therapy. If minor surgery is chosen, a small incision will be made on the cyst to drain the fluid and reduce its size. There is also the option of having a cyst injected with a medicine that minimizes any swelling or inflammation.