Skin cysts are common growths that can occur pretty much anywhere on your body. Although they may look unattractive, these growths typically don’t pose a serious health risk — but because they can appear the same as some cancer growths, they still need to be medically evaluated and treated.
At South Florida Surgical Group in the Kendall neighborhood of Miami, Florida, Michael Renfrow, MD, FACS, and Steven Kanter, MD, FACS, treat skin cysts that have become symptomatic, using a custom approach based on the type, size, and location of the cyst along with other factors. Here’s how to tell when your cyst needs a doctor’s care.
Why cysts form
Cysts are small, enclosed sacs filled with a solid, liquid, or gaseous substance. Most skin cysts form when tiny skin pores or oil glands are blocked or clogged, but they can be caused by other issues, such as trauma, irritation, inflammatory conditions, parasites, and infections.
There are three main types of skin cysts: sebaceous, epidermoid, and pilonidal.
Sebaceous cysts are round lumps that form when your skin’s oil glands become clogged. An oily substance called sebum builds up, and eventually, a small sac or cyst forms around it. Sebaceous cysts usually show up on your face, neck, chest, or back — areas where oil glands are numerous.
Epidermoid cysts form when shed skin cells wind up migrating into the deeper layers of your skin instead of being sloughed off. These cysts typically appear on the face, trunk, and neck.
Pilonidal cysts usually form near your tailbone, when an ingrown hair becomes trapped inside the skin. These cysts contain skin cells, hair, and other debris, and they’re more common among people who sit for long periods of time.
Skin cyst symptoms: What to look for
For many cysts, the only symptom they cause is a small lump. While it might be cosmetically displeasing, these cysts don’t usually require any medical intervention unless they become infected or develop other symptoms.
However, you should definitely see a doctor if your cyst displays any of these symptoms:
- Yellow discharge, which could indicate an infection
- Pain, tenderness, or redness
- A rapid change in size, color, or shape
- Ruptures or splits open
- Causes irritation
Cysts that occur near joints or on your fingers or toes should also be evaluated, since regular movement can cause irritation, rupture, or infection.
It can be difficult to differentiate between a cyst and a cancerous growth. For that reason, it’s important to have an initial evaluation of any skin growth as soon as you notice it.
Treating skin cysts
Typically, cysts can be removed during an in-office procedure that takes just about five minutes.
During the treatment, the area is numbed with a local anesthetic, then the cyst is removed through a very small incision. In some instances, we remove the cyst wall and drain the cyst rather than removing the entire cyst.
Afterward, the cyst material is sent to a lab for further evaluation to look for the presence of cancer cells. While cysts themselves are noncancerous, some types of skin cancer can cause cysts to form. Lab analysis is imperative to ensure you receive appropriate care.
Have your skin cyst evaluated
Even though nearly all skin cysts are benign, having a cyst evaluated is important to rule out cancer. That’s true even if your cyst isn’t causing symptoms.
To schedule your skin cyst evaluation or to learn more about cyst treatments, call South Florida Surgical Group or book an appointment online today.