How to Treat a Skin Cyst

Sebaceous cysts arise from hair follicles, after a hair follicle becomes swollen. The cysts originate from the sebaceous glands, or glands that secrete an oily substance known as sebum.  This oily substance helps to lubricate the skin and the hair. A sebaceous cyst is a slow growing, small lump or bump under the skin. This type of cyst is benign, or non-cancerous, and occurs when a sebaceous gland becomes infected.  When this gland becomes infected, the area becomes inflamed, red, tender and sore, but is rarely very painful.

The most common places for cysts to arise are the face, neck, upper back, and upper chest.  Although this is most common, especially in places where a lot of rubbing or irritation occurs, they can occur anywhere on the body. These cysts can slowly grow larger over the years, or remain small.  For some, they disappear on their own without any treatment. For others, an infected sebaceous cyst can be filled with a puss-like substance that is oftentimes cheese-like in consistency and malodorous when drained. If the cyst is causing discomfort, treatment can resolve this.

How do you treat these glandular cysts?

For those who do not develop any painful symptoms, or the cyst does not grow large enough where it is unsightly or bothersome – no treatment is needed.  If however, the site becomes swollen or tender, seeking treatment can be helpful.  There are some treatments you can try at home to drain the cysts and decrease inflammation.  Typically putting a warm compress over the cyst can help it drain on its own and eventually go away. 

Unfortunately, many people confuse this type of cyst with a pimple and are tempted to squeeze or pop the affected area.  This is the worst thing you can do as it can cause more inflammation and increase discomfort.  If a warm compress does not lessen the pain and swelling, see a doctor for evaluation.  The doctor may decide to drain the cyst or used a steroid injection to reduce the swelling of the site. Your physician may also opt to take a biopsy of the cyst to confirm it is not another type of growth.  For cysts that have grown large and cause a lot of discomfort, surgical excision of the cyst may be necessary.