Skin cysts (epidermoid cysts / sebaceous cysts / pilar cysts) can develop anywhere on the body (except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet). They occur when a pore becomes blocked by dead skin cells. Sebum accumulates in the blocked duct and white blood cells may attempt to break down this debris. This results in the creation of a clump of cheesy white material that may drain out of the cyst. A non-infected and non-inflamed cyst will feel like a lump just under the skin. It may or may not cause pain if you press on it. If a cyst becomes inflamed or infected, it will usually be painful. The overlying skin will be tender and may appear red and swollen. Infection and inflammation often result from attempts to squeeze the cyst and express the contents. Skin cysts that become infected may be referred to as boils or abscesses.
A dermatologist can remove a cyst surgically. This includes removing the cyst wall so it won’t simply fill up again. This is a minimally invasive that should only leave a very small scar. Nine times out of ten, this treatment will be effective and prevent recurrence of the cyst. If you have an infected cyst removed, you may need antibiotics to limit infection. Keeping skin clear of dead skin and excess oil can help prevent the formation of new cysts. You may use over-the-counter products such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic cleansers or prescription creams such as Retin-A to keep your pores clear.
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