What are sebaceous cysts?

They arerounded skin nodules, flesh-colored and of different sizes (from a small protuberance to measure 5 cm in diameter), mobile when touched. They usually appear on the back, head and neck.

Inside,they contain mainly keratin and lipids (fat). Generally, they are odorless, but they can also emanate a fetidity, characteristic of a bacterial infection or decomposition.

Note: The term sebaceous is no longer used, butepidermal inclusion cysts or epidermoid cysts. There are other kinds of cysts: dermoid, trichylemal, and mixed.

Why do sebaceous cysts come out?

It is amultifactorial condition, they are relatively frequent skin disorders, so there is no single cause. Depending on this, the severity of sebaceous cysts can vary. Next, we will explain some of the most frequent causes.

Obstructed sebaceous gland

The sebaceous glands are sebum-producing units, which discharge their content through a final duct, located in the follicular orifice through which the follicle (or hair) exits. These drainage ductscan become blocked by overgrowth of the gland (hyperplasia) or production of a protein called keratin.

skin trauma

Athletes wearing tight fitting helmets, razor blades that are not gentle on the skin, irritating cosmetics, resting the head on the hands and scratching are the most frequent examples. The wounds trigger inflammation, obstructing the gland.

Inflamed Hair Follicle

Also called folliculitis,due to infectious causes or not. The most frequent germ involved isStaphylococcus aureus, it can infect the face, beard, scalp, neck (particularly in diabetics), and lower limbs (common in women who shave their legs).

When infected, the follicle becomes inflamed and grows, generating symptoms of pain and discomfort. If the inflammation spreads, it can rupture the walls of the follicle, spilling pus, dead cells, and bacteria into the deeper portions of the skin.

Embryonic remnants of skin epithelium

It is the cause of columnar cysts . During the development of the embryo, temporary tissues arise that can involute (disappear) or mature into functional tissues, allowing life.

Note: In certain individuals, these embryonic tissues may persist. For example, the gill arches. The second branchial arch may persist until birth, producing a nodule or mass in the anterior part of the neck.


It is one of the Most Common Skin Disorderstag. In the US alone, it affects more than 50 million people, according to data compiled by theAmerican Academy of Dermatology. (1)

Note: It is characterized by its Distinctive Lesion, The Comedo(popularly known as pimples). They are small lesions, which do not reach dimensions greater than 4 mm. However, the small pimpleCan evolve into other more serious injuries ; such as papules, pustules, cysts and inflammatory nodules.

Symptoms of sebaceous cysts

Sebaceous cysts can be painless, although others do produce signs of inflammationand discomfort. Below, we will detail some symptoms to help guide you in case you suspect you have one.

Pain, swelling and redness

In the context of acne or an inflamed follicle, it is common to experience pain in the area, also accompanied by other signs, such as widening (edema) and others known as erythema (redness), which is caused by the outflow of blood from blood vessels. tiny arteries, out of these.

High temperature in the area

There may be inflammation in sebaceous cysts, when it begins, it leads to a Hyperinflux of blood and increased vascular permeability to the injured tissue.

Note:This remarkable increase in vascular flow is thecause of the rise in temperature, which can be perceived as a sensation of heat in the affected area, in the same way, it can be attributed to an increase in metabolism in the affected area.


Skin sensitivity, one of the most common symptoms , is associated with a weak skin barrier function, hyperreactivity of nerve fibers, and possible irritation, which trigger the aforementioned sensitivity.

Suppuration of organic matter

It is important to mention that thepresence of pus does not necessarily mean an infection (although it tends to be the most frequent cause).

Note: A cause of suppurative cysts ishidradenitis suppurativa, an inflammatory disease of the hair follicle, which affects approximately 0.1% of the inhabitants, according to data published in theJournal of Family Medicine SEMERGEN. (2)

Types of sebaceous cysts

Sebaceous cystsare common diseases in the area of dermatology, in which two types can be described, based on their etiology or cause, since these can vary, from being sporadic to family inheritance.

Congenital epidermal

Congenital type sebaceous cysts refer to the fact that the individual is born with them, forexample, the aforementioned embryonic remains of the skin epithelium. They can also be named in this section, the formation of cysts due to genetic factors.

Fun fact: A study published in the American Journal of medical genetics linked inherited cases of trichilemmal cysts , benign skin tumors that occur in 5%-10% of the US population, to chromosome 3p24-p21.2.10. (3)

acquired epidermal

They correspond to the majority of sebaceous cysts, these being the most frequent and are due to clogged sebaceous glands , acne, inflamed hair follicles, even skin trauma.

Treatment to eliminate sebaceous cysts

There is no single treatment for sebaceous cysts, but as a general rule, they should not be treated at home.

It is important to avoid scratching, lacerating, or forcing the material inside (such as pus) to come out, since this can injure the person’s skin, leaving scars or, worse still, worsening the situation and making it difficult to extract it later. the health professional.

Surgical removal

It is an outpatient surgery, which is performed under local anesthesia, in which the doctor with a scalpel makes a small incision, being careful not to cut the cyst, since the objective is to obtain a single piece, including the capsule and its content , as reported in the nursing journal Nursing. (4)

Important: The post-surgical evolution should be without complications, in which the stitches are generally removed 7 days after the intervention.

Sewer system

In a cyst that is large enough or whose walls are weakened, Pus represents a risk , as it can drain into the deeper portions of the dermis (skin), predisposing to superimposed inflammation or infection.

In this case, drainage is a minimally invasive technique,in contrast to excision. The doctor makes a small cut of 2 to 3 mm in the center, pressing gently on the cyst to push the contents out.


Asymptomatic epidermoid cysts (that is, they do not cause pain, discomfort, fever associated with infections, among others) do not require medication.

On the other hand, inflamed epidermoid cysts can be treated with triamcinolone injecteddirectly into the wound. It can also be accompanied with antibiotics if the person has symptoms of an infection.

Key Conclusions

  • Sebaceous cysts are protrusions of the skinof variable size, composed of epithelium, fat and keratin. They can appear on the face, neck and back of the trunk.
  • Currently the term sebaceous is not used, but epidermoid or epidermal inclusion is used. is used.
  • They can produce symptoms of pain, redness, increased local temperature and even superinfections.
  • Cysts should not be treated at hometag. You must go to a health center for this, since it is the professionals who have the skills and instruments required for your treatment.

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