What is a cyst?
A cyst is a sac that is filled with fluid or semi-fluid material. Cysts can generally occur in most places of the body, but this article focusses on skin cysts (also known as sebaceous cysts or epidermoid cysts)
What causes skin cysts?
The specific cause is not really understood, but it is thought to be due to skin cells becoming trapped in deeper skin layers. These trapped cells continue to multiply, leading to growth of the cyst.
Do skin cysts cause any symptoms?
Cysts often cause no problems, but occasionally they can become painful (especially if on the scalp and caught with a hairbrush), infected, or cosmetically embarrassing. Also, cysts can sometimes leak a thick toothpaste-like material, which can be unpleasant. In such cases, cyst removal may be the best option.
How can skin cysts be treated?
Occasionally specialists may aspirate the cyst, whereby a needle is passed into it to suck out the contents. Whilst this may temporarily remove the cyst, it very often recurs.
Cysts can sometimes rupture spontaneously, possibly having been knocked against an object without noticing. The swelling, however, often recurs.
If the cyst is quite small, then laser surgery may be possible. This usually leaves very little scarring, but does have other risks such as hypopigmentation of the skin.
Generally, the most common and appropriate way for cyst removal is to perform surgery, usually under local anesthetic.
How is skin cyst removal performed?
Usually, cyst removal can be performed under local anesthetic. The surgeon injects local anesthetic around the cyst, making the skin numb.
Occasionally, depending on the location and size of the cyst (or if the patient is very young), general anesthetic may be needed for cyst removal.
To learn more, please read our article on cyst removal or a real experience of cyst removal
Can a skin cyst come back?
Yes they certainly can return. Occasionally they can recur after surgery in the same area. Also, having had one cyst, it may indicate that you are prone to forming cysts and you could have new ones forming elsewhere on your skin.
More information on cyst removal
Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring or bleeding. Other complications can also occur during cyst removal, depending on the size and location of the cyst. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.
The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer