Cysts are abnormal, sac-like growths filled with fluid, protein, skin cells, or other substances. These common growths can develop almost anywhere, including inside your body or just beneath your skin. Most cysts are benign (non-cancerous), painless, and slow growing.
Although the average cyst doesn’t require treatment, a cyst that’s very large or growing in an awkward or uncomfortable location, one that’s pressing on a nerve or blood vessel, or one that’s infected and inflamed — or susceptible to infection and inflammation — is problematic.
Dr. Johnny L. Serrano, your board-certified general surgeon in Glendale, Arizona, evaluates and treats abnormal growths on a routine basis here at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy.
Fast facts about cysts
External cysts are sac-like pockets of membranous tissue that develop just beneath the skin. These round, dome-shaped bumps often appear yellowish or white, with a small dark “plug” which might ooze pus under pressure. Most cysts are:
- Self-contained in a sac
- Symmetrical (round or dome-shaped)
- Tender and yielding (not hard or firm)
- Skin-colored, tan, yellowish, or white
- Small and stable or very slow growing
Although most cysts are harmless, certain types can, on rare occasions, become malignant (cancerous).
Common external cysts
There are hundreds of different types of cysts. The most common external cysts are:
Commonly known as skin cysts, these growths develop when epidermal cells don’t shed properly. They form when lingering skin cells migrate to deeper skin layers, form an enclosed sac, and multiply.
Just as epidermoid cysts arise from epidermal cells, sebaceous cysts arise from the oil-secreting sebaceous glands that lubricate your skin and hair. They can grow anywhere on the body, apart from the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.
Pilar cysts are round, skin-colored bumps that emerge when protein and wayward hair follicle cells build up inside a hair follicle. Also called trichilemmal cysts, they typically appear on the scalp — but can develop on any area of skin that has hair.
A pilonidal cyst is a round sac of tissue that typically develops at the cleft of the buttocks, but can emerge anywhere along the buttock crease, from the tailbone to the anus. Whether it contains fluid or air, this type of cyst is often the product of a skin infection caused by an ingrown hair.
Have your cyst evaluated
Anytime you notice an abnormal skin growth, you should see Dr. Serrano for an evaluation. Besides wanting to rule out cancer, it’s important to know what the growth is and what your next steps should be — even if it’s not painful or located in a sensitive area.
Don’t try to self-diagnose your skin growth, and don’t press it, squeeze it, or try to drain it on your own. Draining a cyst at home can make it worse and possibly lead to infection.
Cysts that need surgery
Certain cyst types — including pilonidal and sebaceous cysts — call for medical intervention simply because they’re far more likely to become infected, swollen, and tender. Treatment for a susceptible cyst means having it surgically removed in a quick, in-office procedure.
Dr. Serrano considers the type, size, and location of your cyst, as well as whether it’s infected, any symptoms it may be causing, and your current health status before making any treatment recommendations. He may suggest medical intervention if your cyst is:
- Large or growing quickly
- In a sensitive area; painful
- Impinging on a nerve
- Pressing on blood vessels
- Infected and inflamed
Further, he may also strongly advise you to undergo cyst removal surgery if you have a cyst type that’s more likely to become infected at some point — especially if you have diabetes or another health condition that leaves you vulnerable to slow-healing wounds.
For example, all pilonidal cysts should be removed. Without treatment, pilonidal cysts often grow larger and more painful, increasing your risk of developing sinus cavities (empty hollows beneath the skin) and skin abscesses (swollen pockets of infection).
Most sebaceous cysts are harmless, but they may grow larger, break open, or become infected. If you’re healthy, you may simply choose to live with this type of cyst and monitor it for signs of infection, but if you’re diabetic or have poor circulation, you should have it removed to avoid a severe infection.
Call 623-321-5663 to learn more about the cyst evaluation and removal services available at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona, or click online to book an appointment with Dr. Serrano today.