A cyst is a benign, circular, dome-shaped sac, filled with pus, bacteria, and dead cells. Cysts can be formed on the skin, inside your organs, or tissues. Cysts may be firm or soft to touch and often stretch the adjacent and overlying skin. Cysts can grow over time and get infected, causing complications.
1. Cysts are very common
Cysts are very common and observed in at least 20% of adults. Cysts can appear in newborns or at any point in a person's life. They do not occur in people of any one race any more than the other. They are more common in men than women. Cysts are caused by blockage of a hair follicle, clogged oil glands, inflammation around a foreign body such as ingrown hair, or a body piercing
2. There are different types of cysts
There are many different types of cysts on the skin depending on their origin, location, clinical characteristics, and other factors. The most common types are:
These form within the glands underneath the skin that create oil, also known as sebum. A cyst can develop when these glands are blocked or impaired in any way. Sebaceous cysts are typically filled with oil that is blocked and are most often found on the face, neck, and torso.
These form within hair follicles when the epidermis, or the outer layer of the skin, grows into the hair follicle instead of sloughing or shedding away. They are filled with skin cells.
Also known as trichilemmal cysts, they develop within the hair follicle. They are often found on the scalp although they could be on other parts of the body. They are generally filled with keratin that is the substance our hair and nails are made out of.
In addition to the above common cysts, there are several others including:
Digital mucous cysts
Cystic acne (not to be confused with typical acne)
3. Cysts are generally harmless but can cause pain and infections
Cysts are filled with pus, dead skin cells, ingrown hairs, and often times bacteria. The skin inside and around the cyst can get infected and develop complications. Cysts can be ruptured causing pain, and an open wound that requires more serious and immediate attention.
4. Cysts can be confused with lipomas
Lipomas are deposits of fat cells in the dermis layer. They are similar in appearance to some cysts, are also benign but not susceptible to infection. They can grow over time and cause cosmetic concerns or become painful if they touch surrounding nerves. Knowing what kind of lesion you have is important to treat it correctly.
5. Dermatologists can treat your cyst before it becomes a problem
Cysts can limit movement, create an unwanted appearance, cause pain, skin infections, or could simply be uncomfortable. If you have a cyst or cyst-like semi-soft or hard bump that you do not recognize, you should get see a dermatologist and get it checked out.
A dermatologist can examine your cyst, rule out more serious diagnoses, and treat it reliably in a safe environment. Cysts can be treated with antibiotics, injections, drainage, or surgical excision and repair. Your dermatologist will be best equipped to assess your cyst and determine the best course of treatment.
Cysts should not be treated at home. Self-treatment of cysts can lead to repeated occurrences (unless the underlying pocket holding the pus is carefully and safely removed), and increase the possibility of infections resulting from the open wound.