New York City dermatologist discusses a common patient question, “What is an epidermoid cyst?”
Cysts are common. While these pockets of tissue are rarely cancerous, they can be aggravating. You may feel a cyst detracts from your appearance. Cysts can be uncomfortable and rub up against clothing. They can even become inflamed and infected, or rupture.
Basics about cysts
Not all cysts are the same. Epidermoid cysts arise beneath the skin. Sebaceous cysts arise from the sebaceous glands that secrete the oily matter (or sebum) that lubricates the hair and skin. While epidermoid cysts are mistakenly called sebaceous cysts, true sebaceous cysts are rare.
Cysts can appear anywhere on the body and generally feel like peas on the skin. Epidermoid cysts are more likely to appear on the face, trunk, or neck. They may appear as small round bumps or as tiny blackheads. Yellow fluid or keratin protein may drain from the cyst. Should the bump become infected, it can appear swollen and red, and may feel tender.
How a cyst forms
The outermost layer of skin is made up of cells. Your body continuously sheds these cells. If these cells aren’t shed and instead move deeper into the skin and multiply, epidermoid cysts can form.
Developing in the sebaceous glands, sebaceous cysts can form after a hair follicle becomes swollen. In some cases, sebaceous cysts are the result of rare genetic disorders such as steatocystoma complex.
You may be at greater risk of developing an epidermoid cyst if you:
- Have a history of acne
- Are post-puberty
- Sustained skin injuries
Treating an epidermoid cyst
There are widely accepted procedures to remove cysts. As a patient in Midtown Manhattan, you can benefit from Dr. Ron Shelton’s experience with a range of cyst treatments. Through the years, he has discovered some treatments work better than others. He has even found that innovating upon accepted treatments results in better treatment for patients.
For example, Dr. Shelton has found that a standard incision and draining technique works best when the cysts are treated with warm water. As the cyst in turn shrinks, any incisions can be made on a smaller bump. A smaller cyst is easier to treat and assures the entire capsule is removed. Standard incision and drainage techniques don’t always result in the entire capsule being removed.
Dr. Shelton may determine your cyst will respond better to an injectable medication. This medication reduces swelling and inflammation.
Dr. Shelton also offers cyst removal as a short, in-office surgical procedure. The treated area may be numbed with a local anesthetic. The entire cyst is typically removed. Cysts have been known to come back, so this approach helps to minimize the chances of recurrence.
When is a cyst something else?
Cysts are often painless and generally harmless. If you have discomfort or see changes, such as the size of the bump, schedule an appointment with Dr. Shelton immediately. It can be hard to differentiate some bumps and lumps from common cancers such as squamous cell skin cancer. In fact, some skin cancers can start as seemingly harmless bumps.