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If you notice a yellow or white lump on your skin, you may have a sebaceous cyst. A cyst is a slow-growing, fluid-filled, dome-shaped, yellow, or white lump that is easily movable under your skin. There are many types of cysts, and sebaceous cysts are one of them that originate from sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands are small glands located all over your body, like your hair, hands, and feet; they produce a mixture of oils called sebum that coats your skin and hair.
Sebaceous cysts are usually harmless and do not require any treatment unless they are aesthetically unpleasant or if they get infected. Let us discuss further sebaceous cysts, their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment , and prevention. So read on!

What Is A Sebaceous Cyst?

A sebaceous cyst is a common, benign (non-cancerous) cyst of the skin that may contain liquid or semi-liquid material. These cysts can be found on your entire body but often affect the face, neck, and torso (but are not found in the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet), and are usually harmless and painless lumps. According to American Family Physicians, healthcare professionals call them epidermal, keratin, or epithelial cysts. Skin or sebaceous cysts are common, affecting at least 25% of adults, and can range in size from a few millimeters to 5 centimeters.

What Are The Causes Of Sebaceous Cysts?

Sebaceous cysts originate from the sebaceous glands and are caused for the following reasons:

  • When cells abnormally multiply and move inward rather than moving out to the skin's surface and shedding away as skin cells normally do.
  • If the gland or its ducts (the passage through which the oil or sebum leaves) become damaged or blocked due to trauma or injury to the area. 
  • A surgical wound or acne can also cause a sebaceous cyst.
  • Certain genetic (passed from parent to offspring) conditions such as Gardner’s syndrome or basal cell nevus syndrome.
  • Misshapen or deformed ducts can also cause a sebaceous cyst.

What Are The Common Symptoms Of Sebaceous Cysts?

Usually, sebaceous cysts are harmless, fluid-filled lumps under your skin that present with the following symptoms:

  • These are small in size and are painless
  • Large cysts can cause pain and pressure on the face and neck
  • Sebaceous cysts are made up of keratin which is a key element that makes up your skin and nails
  • Visible hole in the middle of the sebaceous cyst, which is called the central punctum
  • Most cysts are soft and easily movable
  • If the cyst gets inflamed, other symptoms may include:
    • Skin redness and tenderness
    • Warm skin around the affected area
    • Cheesy, white, foul-smelling material may drain out of the cyst
    • High-grade fever (more than 104?) and chills

How Are Sebaceous Cysts Diagnosed?

Sebaceous cysts are usually considered harmless, but most often, people may wish to get them removed for cosmetic reasons. Your doctor will decide the best treatment option that works best for you.

  • Small cysts usually require a simple procedure to drain out the content of the cyst.
  • Larger cysts take around 30 to 60 minutes to remove and can be done through the following methods:

Conventional wide excision

  • An incision (cut) is made over the cyst that completely removes the cyst along with its content and walls.
  • The incision or wound is stitched up.
  • But this method leaves behind a long scar which is aesthetically unpleasant.

Minimal excision

  • A stab incision is made in the center of the cyst using a surgical instrument.
  • Slight compression is used to allow the contents of the cyst to pass through the incision, and later the entire cyst sac is extracted.
  • There are no stitches required to close the wound.
  • This method causes minimal scarring but there is an increased risk of recurrence

Laser with punch biopsy excision

  • This method uses a laser to create a small hole to drain the cyst to remove the contents. 
  • The outer walls of the cyst are removed a month later.

What Are The Complications Sebaceous Cysts?

Small sebaceous cysts are harmless and generally do not pose any complications if left untreated. However, if they enlarge in size and get infected, they may cause the following complications if left untreated:

  • Formation of a painful abscess (pocket of pus) which can be extremely painful and cause discomfort.
  • Infected cysts can cause high-grade fever (more than 104 degrees), chills, body aches, and redness around the affected area.
  • If they are not removed completely after surgery there is an increased risk of recurrence.
  • Rarely a sebaceous cyst may transform into a cancerous lesion.

How To Prevent Sebaceous Cysts?

Sebaceous cysts can be effectively prevented by following certain simple precautions:

  • Avoid any type of trauma to your skin like scratching a wound or a rash, that may cause a sebaceous cyst
  • Practise healthy skin hygiene to avoid acne and pimples, by washing your face with warm water and mild cleanser. This helps to unclog the pores from bacteria, dirt, and excess oil.
  • Do not prick your acne, which may lead to a sebaceous cyst.
  • Wash behind your ears and neck to remove hidden oil and dirt. 
  • Use acne medications like antibiotics to prevent infections and control the formation of cysts.

Why Choose MedFin?

Surgery can be a daunting aspect, and feeling anxious is absolutely normal. The massive amount of information you can get from the internet may confuse you even more. This is where Medfin can help. Leave us the hefty task of finding the best hospital, the finest doctor, and the latest procedure at the lowest cost. Let us take charge while you sit back and focus on your health and recovery. Think surgery! Think Medfin.

Frequently Asked Questions

Medfin offers the latest surgical procedures to ensure that you recover as fast as possible in the least painful way possible.

Sebaceous cysts are harmless and painful cysts of the skin that are usually benign (non-cancerous). But rarely, they can become malignant (cancerous) with the following symptoms:

  • Extreme pain and redness with pus discharge
  • Accelerated growth even after the removal
  • If the size is more than 5 cm in diameter

Sebaceous cysts are normally not painful and are harmless, but they can become red, sore, and tender if infected. This causes swelling around the cyst, with foul-smelling drainage leaking out of the cyst. 



Yes. Sebaceous cysts can grow gradually over a period of time. Some may get so big that they may interfere with your routine activities and may negatively impact your quality of life. For example- if you have a sebaceous cyst on your back, it may make sleeping in a supine position difficult. In such cases, the only option is to surgically remove them. 

DO NOT try to remove sebaceous cysts at home. It is not recommended to remove sebaceous cysts at home as it will not be done under aseptic conditions. Unhygienic removal of cysts will only worsen your condition.

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