Posted by: Skin and Cancer Institute in Medical Dermatology

If you have a skin cyst, you probably dislike how it feels and looks. These hard nobs can be painful and make your skin look less than its best. While cysts are usually nothing serious (medically speaking), you may want to take them seriously if they bother you.

What is a Cyst?

Cysts are bumps filled with fluid (or semi-fluid) keratin which is broken-down skin cells. These round sacs are benign. Some are firm, others are movable. Most cysts form when a hair follicle gets blocked. There are three major types of cysts: sebaceous, pilar and milium.

Sebaceous Cyst

A Sebaceous cyst forms from a clogged hair follicle. This type of cyst is most commonly associated with severe acne. It’s movable. It’s commonly seen on the upper part of the body: the back, neck, ears, face, and scalp. You can sometimes see a pore in the center of this type of cyst.

Pilar Cyst

A pilar cysts usually show up in groups on the scalp. Unlike the sebaceous cyst, the pilar cyst has a thicker wall. This makes it easier to remove in one solid piece.

Milium Cyst

Also known as milia, these cysts usually appear on the face, especially around the eyes. They are firm, white-colored bumps. You might have noticed milia on a newborn, as this is a somewhat common condition in babies and usually resolves on its own. Adults, however, may want (for cosmetic reasons) to have their milia treated.

How to Treat a Cyst at Home

You can use a home remedy for small, painless cysts. Take a warm compress and put it on the cyst for ten minutes. This might encourage it to drain and heal. But sometimes, this isn’t enough, and you need to see a dermatologist. Never try to drain the cyst on its own because you have to remove all of it–which is a challenge–or it will grow back. Plus, it could become infected. So, it’s best to leave cyst removal to a doctor.

When to See a Dermatologist For Your Cyst

It’s best to see a dermatologist if your cyst is large and painful. This is especially true if it looks inflamed and infected. Your dermatologist has three options for treating your cyst, which include:

  • Antibiotics–to treat the infection and reduce swelling.
  • Cortisone–a shot directly into the cyst can bring rapid relief and it’ll start to shrink within a couple of days.
  • Surgery–your dermatologist can cut out and completely remove the cyst, so it doesn’t grow back. This option is effective but could leave a scar. If you’re bothered by the thought of a scar, ask for silicon dioxide (gel or pads) to help the scar heal better than it can on its own.

In Summary

Skin cysts are hard bumps filled with keratin that usually form when a hair follicle gets blocked. There are three main cysts: sebaceous, pilar, and milium. Usually, a cyst is no big deal medically unless it’s large, painful, or infected. In this case, it’s best to have a dermatologist look at it. They’ll treat an infected cyst with an antibiotic to reduce the swelling, or they might inject it with cortisone. Surgery is also an option to completely remove the cyst so nothing is left behind and it doesn’t regrow.

Cysts are usually nothing serious, but you might dislike how they look or feel. If this is the case, or if you have a cyst that’s infected, give us a call at the Skin and Cancer Institute. Our dermatologists are cyst experts and are ready to help you begin your journey to healthier skin.