Sebaceous Cyst

What is a Sebaceous Cyst?

Sebaceous cysts that mostly occur in the neck, torso or face are noncancerous cysts. Although they are not life-threatening, they grow slowly and can be very uncomfortable when they have not been treated appropriately. It is usually a lump that may appear behind the ear, under the eye, on the forehead, back, face, neck, nose, labia, breast, vagina, breast, penis, groin, chest, scalp, arms, chin, foot and legs.


Sebaceous cyst for years has been confused with Epidermoid, Pilar and Steatocystoma cysts. However, after several studies, it was revealed that epidermoid and pilar cysts do not emerge from the sebaceous glands. Thus it is only steatocystoma cyst that can be considered as a true sebaceous cyst.

Atheroma Capitis

Atheroma capitis is a type of sebaceous cyst which is located on the scalp of a person. It is formed due to blockage of the excretory duct of the gland itself. It has no rapid growing malignant cells in its composition and looks like a tumor. They are the rounded size of a pea, soft in touch and painless in palpation with the densely elastic formation. It is not life-threatening, but infection can cause an abscess causing pain and swelling. There are no contraindications and complications and can be removed by surgical intervention at the doctor’s clinic.

Causes of Sebaceous Cyst

The primary cause is the sebaceous gland that produces oil called sebum that coats the hair and skin. It eventually happens when the passage from which the oil leaves from the gland or its duct is blocked or damaged. There are a number of factors that may be responsible for such an event, they are:

  1. Swollen Hair Follicles: Keratin compounds emerge under the skin due to acne in hair follicles.
  2. Skin injury or trauma: Due to any skin injury, the hair follicles get blocked and results in inflammation.
  3. Impaired sebaceous gland: When the gland does not perform normally, keratin may accumulate and form a lump.
  4. Bacterial infection: Areas which are affected by bacteria are prone to cyst formation.
  5. Surgery: Damage to cells or skin injury during surgery can be a reason.
  6. Genetic conditions: Basal cell nevus syndrome or Gardner’s syndrome are also among the possible reasons.

Other causes

  1. Post puberty
  2. Acne
  3. Piercing
  4. High levels of hormone testosterone
  5.  Androgenic anabolic steroids
  6. Gardner’s syndrome or Familial colorectal polyposis

Symptoms of Sebaceous Cyst

Small cysts are not painful, but larger ones can be painful, especially the ones on the face and neck may cause intense pressure and pain. The cyst is filled with white cream and is soft when touched. Some common symptoms are:

  • Formation of single or multiple dome-shaped lumps or sacks on the skin
  • Non-painful yet patient feels tenderness around the affected region
  • Drainage of foul rancid smelling grayish substance
  • Redness around the swelled region
  • Feels hot around the affected region
  • Movable, firm, smooth and covered with a white or yellowish skin
  • Small opening at the top when squeezed releases a greasy material
  • Common in middle-aged adults but rare in children

A sebaceous cyst can be cancerous if it has the following characteristics:

  • Diameter that is larger than five centimeters
  • Fast rate of reoccurrence after being removed
  • Signs of infection, such as redness, pain, or pus drainage


There are chances that the cyst gets infected or inflamed for no known reason. It eventually becomes painful or tender and develops a red colored cover. The doctor leaves an inflamed or infected cyst to heal for 6-7 days. An inflamed cyst is removed using an injection containing steroid triamcinolone while doctors use topical or oral antibiotics for removing the infected cyst.

  • Rupture: Big cysts mostly on the scalp might burst on their own. In case adequate treatment is not adopted, the ruptured cyst gets infected and leaves a wide irregular scar.
  • Cancer: Both epidermoid and sebaceous cyst doesn’t spread to other locations or develop into skin cancers. Skin cancer appears like a bump having a red ulcer in the middle that is clearly visible when the skin is exposed to the sun.

Diagnosis of Sebaceous Cyst

The initial diagnosis can be carried out by simple physical examination. If the cyst is unusual, then further tests are needed to remove the cyst surgically.

Common tests used for a sebaceous cyst are:

  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Punch biopsy

Treatment of Sebaceous Cyst (Medication & Removal)

Small sebaceous cysts are often harmless and can be treated non-surgically. But large cysts may become infected and itchy. Some common treatments include:

  • Prescribed antibiotics and ointments to fight the infection
  • Using warm compress can cause the cyst to burst
  • Usages of steroid medications such as corticosteroid injections reduce pain and swelling

Removal through Surgery

Doctors may use any of the following methods to get rid of sebaceous cyst:

  • Incision & drainage (Removal of cyst without removing the cyst wall)
  • Convention wide excision (Removal with the walls- leaves a scar)
  • Minimal excision Technique
  • Laser with punch biopsy excision

Home Remedies

To reduce the pain and inflation home remedies can be applied such as a warm compress or heating pad a couple of times a day. But at the same time, it can lead to infection and spread beyond. Hence, it is better to consult a dermatologist when the cysts are causing pain and become larger or ruptured.

Prevention of Sebaceous Cyst

Few steps can be taken to prevent sebaceous cyst. These are:

  1. Consumption of natural herbs purifies blood
  2. Intake of water in huge amount to remove wastage from the body
  3. Follow a nutritious diet rich in vitamins
  4. Use antibiotic herbs to stimulate lymphatic flow
  5. Clean the infected area with a saline solution
  6. Do not pop or squeeze the cyst



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