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Skin cysts are fluid-filled sacs that grow under the skin. They are often surrounded by a thick fibrous capsule, and can contain a strange-smelling, cheese-like material formed from keratin (the protein that makes up your skin, hair, and nails). Some of the most common types of skin cyst include:

  • Epidermoid cysts, also called sebaceous cysts, develop when skin cells from your epidermis (outer layer of skin) start growing in the dermis (deeper layer of skin). These cysts often have a blackhead or plug in the center.
  • Pilar cysts (also called trichilemmal cysts) develop from cells that normally grow around the roots of your hair.

In both cases, the aberrant cells in the cyst can continue to grow, enlarging the cyst. These cysts can be excised in the office under local anesthesia.

Skin Cyst—FAQ

Who gets skin cysts?

Anyone can get a skin cyst, but they are more common in middle-aged individuals and in men. Additionally, users of anabolic steroids are more likely to develop skin cysts, due to their higher levels of testosterone.

What are the symptoms of a skin cyst?

A skin cyst will typically appear as a slow-growing, firm, and round lump under the skin. Epidermal cysts may also be centered around a blackhead. Skin cysts commonly develop on the face and scalp, and other places with an abundance of hair follicles. Infected skin cysts can appear reddish and feel warm to the touch.

How are skin cysts treated?

Dr. Tanna will first evaluate the cyst and rule out other possibilities, such as lipomas or other skin lesions, to confirm the diagnosis. For a skin cyst that is painful, draining, or cosmetically distressing, surgical removal is an option. Both treatments are minor office procedures performed with local anesthetic. Insurance companies often cover the excision of skin cysts.

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