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A Short Guide to Sebaceous Cysts by Dr. Stephanie Ho

Dr Stephanie Ho

"Skin specialist with over 20 years of experience"

Have you ever had a big lump on your skin? It might be a cyst. Are they dangerous? What should you do about them? In this guide, I will tell you the essentials you need to make a decision about cysts so that you can look how you want to.

What are cysts and why do they form?

Sebaceous cysts are also sometimes known as epidermoid cysts. These skin cysts present as smooth round bumps resembling marbles appearing under the skin. These can occur in children or adults and are commonly seen on the face, scalp or trunk. They often contain a strong-smelling cheesy material that can be expressed through a small opening. Cysts may occur due to a blockage of the usual skin shedding process, resulting in skin cells moving deeper and forming keratin filled sac. Cysts can also originate from enlarged oil-producing glands. Sometimes cysts can be hereditary. For example. in the condition steatocystoma multiplex, multiple cysts are found in individuals of the same family.

Are cysts dangerous? Should they be removed?

Cysts are harmless but will not disappear without treatment. They may grow in size over time and occasionally become inflamed or infected. Some people choose to leave their cysts alone. Others choose to remove cysts that are increasing in size or are aesthetically displeasing. It is often sensible to remove cysts early before symptoms occur or worsen. Sebaceous cyst removal is a practical and safe choice for anyone experiencing pain or discomfort. Resist the temptation to pop or squeeze a cyst as it will invariably refill and may even cause an infection.

How are cysts diagnosed and treated?

Your dermatologist can usually diagnose a cyst just by how it looks. The treatment options will then be discussed and include monitoring, antibiotic treatment or surgical removal. A trained dermatological surgeon will be able to perform your choice of treatment to the highest standard.

How are uninfected cysts removed?

For uncomplicated cysts, we often perform removal using the minimal excision technique. This is a simple and effective technique that leaves minimal scarring and a very low rate of recurrence. Instead of simply squeezing out or draining the contents of the cyst, the entire cyst wall and cyst contents are removed, minimizing any risk of the cyst coming back. Once numbing injection is placed around the cyst, the procedure is usually fast and painless. A small cut is made on the surface of the skin to remove the much larger cyst below. The resulting scar is usually small and cosmetically pleasing.

How are infected cysts treated?

Infected cysts often present as red, hot painful and swollen lumps on the skin. These are usually first treated with antibiotics, steroid injections or drainage. Once the inflammation resolves, your dermatological surgeon will advise complete cyst removal to prevent it from becoming symptomatic again.

Can cysts be treated on the same day of consultation?

Do contact us if you have a problematic sebaceous cyst requiring fast and effective treatment. We are able to offer same-day removal service for uninfected cysts in our on-site day surgery facility. This can remove the bump from your skin and leave you blemish free in hours. The resulting wound is usually small and will fade over time to leave a faint scar.

A guest post by Dr. Stephanie Ho from Stephanie Ho Dermatology.

Dr. Stephanie Ho is a British trained Consultant Dermatologist who is registered as a skin specialist both in Singapore and the United Kingdom. She has over 20 years of medical experience, and has practised in Edinburgh, London, Hong Kong and Singapore. Her areas of interest include skin cancer screening, surgical removal of skin lesions, use of lasers for aesthetic rejuvenation, and looking after the skin of children and adolescents. She strives to provide expert dermatology care for the whole family using safe and effective treatments backed up by medical evidence and honed from years of experience

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All content posted is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. This Q&A is not a patient consultation and any information provided herein is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical professional. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment.