Consumer Education

Those Mysterious Bumps Could Be Sebaceous Cysts

What Are Sebaceous Cysts?

A sebaceous cyst is a small lump or bump that forms just under the skin. Also known as epidermoid cysts or keratin cysts, they usually develop and disappear by themselves after a few days. Sebaceous cysts are a result of the blockage of the sebaceous gland by keratin.

Sebaceous cysts often release an unpleasant smell because they contain oily fluid. They may develop all over the body, except the feet and palms. Sebaceous cysts mainly occur on the face, breast, back and head. They vary in size and are mainly painless and non-cancerous. There are many methods of treating sebaceous cysts. However, it is important to understand what causes sebaceous cysts.

sebaceous cyst
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Causes of Sebaceous Cysts

Cysts are caused by a number of abnormalities in the human body. Some of the most common causes of cysts include:

• Block fluid or sebaceous glands

• Production of excessive testosterone

• Swollen hair follicles

• Excessive production of sebum on the surface of your skin

• Skin trauma

• Overexposure the harmful UV rays of the sun

• An individual with a history of a skin condition or acne is most likely to experience sebaceous cysts.

• Repetitive shaving and waxing

Signs and Symptoms of Infection

Sebaceous cysts are mostly harmless lumps or bumps that form and move freely under the surface of the skin. It is extremely important to avoid touching or squeezing the substance inside to avoid swelling, pain and infection. Sometimes, infection can occur. Some of the signs and symptoms of an infection include:

• Redness

• Tenderness

• Warmth of the skin over the lumps or bumps

• A waxy or oily substance draining from the lump or bump.

Sebaceous Cysts Diagnosis

To a professional dermatologist, sebaceous cysts can be diagnosed easily by their overall appearance. In some cases, a skin culture or biopsy might be required to rule out any other skin condition. You should see your health care provider to get an official diagnosis if you think you have developed sebaceous cysts.

Treatment for Sebaceous Cysts

When they develop on the skin, sebaceous cysts can look very unattractive. They sometimes drain out foul smelling fluid. However, it is extremely important to seek treatment instead of touching or squeezing a sebaceous cyst on your head, back or face. Squeezing a cyst can elevate the risk of inflammation and infection. If the cysts are painful or do not rupture, then make sure you see a dermatologist.

Some of the most common treatments for cysts include:

Incision & Drainage

The dermatologist makes a small cut in the area and then removes the fluid from the cysts. This is one of the fastest ways of treating cysts.


This treatment involves injecting the lump with a medication that will ease swelling and discomfort.

Laser treatment

This treatment involves carbon dioxide laser vaporization of the cyst. This can cause minimal scaring.


If the bump gets enlarged, then minor surgery may be necessary. You might need to see your physician to determine whether surgery is the best option for you. Minor surgery is preferred in many cases because it reduces the risk of cyst reappearance.