What Is a Sebaceous Cyst?

After you notice a small, moveable, dome-shaped growth on your skin, you first make sure it isn’t cancer or another serious condition by getting it evaluated by a physician. When you learn that the growth is something called a sebaceous cyst, you’re happy that you’re cancer free, but you now have a whole new set of questions. First of all, you want to know what a sebaceous cyst actually is and whether you now have to do something about it.

At Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona, our board-certified general surgeon Johnny Serrano, DO, FACOS, regularly diagnoses sebaceous cysts and expertly removes them with a minor surgical procedure when necessary. 

If you have a sebaceous cyst and wonder what your next steps should be, here are a few things you should know about this common growth.

Sebaceous cysts are blocked or damaged glands

If you had acne as a teen or an adult, you might be familiar with the term sebum. Sebum refers to a yellowish, oily substance that keeps your skin and hair lubricated and protected. Sebum is produced in the sebaceous glands. Most sebaceous glands are located in hair follicles or pores, but some lay just beneath and open directly onto the skin. 

You have sebaceous glands all over your skin, except for the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. When a sebaceous gland gets clogged, the oil inside can’t pass onto the surface of your skin. Instead, the oil builds up in and swells the gland, even while the gland continues to produce more and more sebum.

The trapped sebum forms a lump that you can easily move. If bacteria get caught in the lump, too, you may notice that it starts to smell. When sebaceous cysts leak, the fluid looks gray and cheesy, and it has a foul odor.

Because both acne and sebaceous cysts are caused by clogged pores and excess sebum, you’re more likely to develop a sebaceous cyst if you already have acne. Sometimes you can develop a sebaceous cyst after your skin’s been injured. You’re also more likely to get them if someone in your family has them.

When to remove sebaceous cysts

If your sebaceous cyst is infected, Dr. Serrano recommends removing it right away to prevent the infection from spreading. He also advises removing painful cysts. He performs the surgery in the comfort of our office, using just a local anesthetic. 

When Dr. Serrano removes a sebaceous cyst, he first cuts it open and drains the collected fluid. He also removes the sac that encloses the cyst. Removing the entire sac reduces the risk of the cyst recurring.

Dr. Serrano is an expert at removing sebaceous cysts for cosmetic reasons, too. Some sebaceous cysts are only a few millimeters long and will go away on their own. However, others can grow to more than two inches. 

If you’re embarrassed by your sebaceous cyst, don’t try to “pop” it yourself. You can damage your skin and the cyst may grow back because the sac wasn’t fully removed. Dr. Serrano removes your cyst and the sac, and closes the wound so that your chances for scarring are minimized.   

Don’t diagnose a cyst on your own

If you notice a small lump on your skin that’s soft and moveable, don’t make the mistake of diagnosing yourself with a sebaceous cyst. On rare occasion, sebaceous cysts do become cancerous, so it’s important to get diagnosed and treated by a professional. 

If you have a sebaceous cyst or growth that you need evaluated or removed, contact us today. Reach out by phone or use the online form.

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