Sebaceous Cyst

What is a Sebaceous Cyst?

Sebaceous cysts are noncancerous cysts, which develop from sebaceous glands. They are commonly found on neck, face and torso. The growth of sebaceous cysts is quite slow and these cysts are not serious in nature; however, they can become uncomfortable if something is not done about them. Treatment comprises of draining the cyst and removing it surgically.

Sebaceous Cyst

Causes of Sebaceous Cyst

Sebaceous glands are the glands present on our skin and they are responsible for producing sebum, which is oil, covering our skin and hair. Sebaceous cysts are formed out of these sebaceous glands, when there is any damage or blockage in the sebaceous gland or its duct resulting in accumulation of the sebum/oil and formation of a cyst. The common cause for formation of sebaceous cysts is any trauma or injury to the skin such as a minor scratch, wound, or pimple/ acne.

Other Causes of Sebaceous Cyst May Include:

  • During a surgical procedure, any damage to the skin cells can cause formation of Sebaceous cysts.
  • If a person is born with a developmental defect, such as deformed duct, then it could lead to formation of Sebaceous cysts.
  • Certain genetic conditions, such as basal cell nevus syndrome or Gardner's syndrome can result in formation of a sebaceous cyst.

What are the Risk Factors of Sebaceous Cyst?

Some of the Risk Factors for Sebaceous Cysts are:

  • Adolescence
  • People who have a prior history of having suffered from acne are also at an increased risk for developing Sebaceous Cysts
  • Certain genetic disorders also puts an individual at risk for having Sebaceous Cysts
  • An injury to the skin or forcefully pulling out a strand of hair may cause Sebaceous Cysts.

Symptoms of Sebaceous Cyst

  • Sebaceous cysts are commonly found on the face, neck, torso where they can be easily seen. The patient having Sebaceous cysts may not feel comfortable due to the appearance of these cysts on these visible areas.
  • On of the symptoms of Sebaceous cyst is that it is usually soft to touch.
  • Sebaceous cysts are often filled with keratin.
  • Small Sebaceous cysts are usually painless. However, larger cysts can be uncomfortable or painful. Large cysts can cause pressure or pain if they are found on the face and neck.

Serious Symptoms Where the Cyst could be Cancerous are:

  • If the Sebaceous cysts cyst has a diameter greater than 5 cm.
  • If the cyst reappears immediately after they are removed.
  • If there are signs of infection, such as pus, redness and pain.

Investigations to Diagnose Sebaceous Cyst

A physical examination is often sufficient to diagnose a sebaceous cyst. If there are symptoms to suggest otherwise, then some additional tests are done to exclude cancer such as:

  • CT (Computed Tomography) scan to look for abnormalities and to find the best way for surgical removal of the Sebaceous cysts.
  • Ultrasound to check the contents inside the cyst.
  • Punch biopsy where a small amount of tissue is removed from the cyst to test it for cancer.

Treatment for Sebaceous Cyst

Treatment is done by draining the Sebaceous cysts or removing it surgically. Surgical removal is the best treatment to get rid of Sebaceous cysts. Many patients opt to get the cysts removed due to cosmetic purposes. As these cysts are not harmful, you are given the option of choosing your treatment method. If the cysts are not removed surgically, then there is a good chance of the cyst coming back. However, there is a risk of scarring with surgery.

Surgical Excision of Sebaceous Cyst From Face

The Following Methods are Used for Removing the Sebaceous Cyst Surgically:

  • Conventional Wide Excision is a method which completely removes the sebaceous cyst; however, it can leave quite a big scar.
  • Minimal Excision technique to remove Sebaceous Cyst leaves very little scarring; however, there is a risk of the cyst returning with this procedure.
  • Laser with Punch Biopsy Excision where laser is used for making a small hole in the cyst to drain its contents. The cyst's outer walls are removed about 4 weeks later.

After the Sebaceous cysts is removed, an antibiotic ointment is prescribed to prevent infection in that region. This should be used until the affected area is healed completely. The doctor may also prescribe a scar cream for reducing the appearance of any scars which might appear after the surgical procedure to remove sebaceous cysts.

Prognosis of Sebaceous Cyst

The prognosis of sebaceous cysts is good, as they are usually not cancerous or life threatening. They, however, can be unsightly to look at and the patient often gets them removed for cosmetic reasons. If the Sebaceous cyst is not treated, then they can grow and become quite large in size and become uncomfortable and eventually need to be removed via surgery. Very rarely, the sebaceous cysts removal site can become infected. So, watch out for signs of infection, such as redness, pus, fever, and pain. The infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, but if not treated, it can be quite dangerous.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: November 9, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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