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Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous cysts are benign (non-cancerous) fluid-filled bumps found on the skin. Also known as skin cysts, they can appear anywhere on the body, but they commonly occur on the head, neck and torso. Their consistency is slightly hardened, and range in size from 1cm to 5cm.

Common Causes of Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous cysts usually grow slowly and are non-life threatening. They develop from the sebaceous glands (hence the term), and most often they develop due to trauma on the surface of the skin.

Other causes of Sebaceous cysts include:

  • Swollen hair follicle
  • Genetics
  • Cell damage during surgery
  • Misshapen ducts

Symptoms of Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous cysts can appear small or large, and range from painless to painful, especially if they are big. They grow slowly, and typically have a hole in the middle. Most of them also move freely when touched. If the cyst breaks open, it produces a foul-smelling substance that is similar to cheese. This ‘cheesy’ substance is known as keratin, which is the protein that makes up the hair and nails.

Some sebaceous cysts can remain stagnant without increasing their size over time, while others tend to grow in size hence causing discomfort especially if it becomes inflamed. However, even though sebaceous cysts are non-cancerous, they can become probably cancerous especially if they appear bigger than 5cm and seem to reoccur after removal.

Diagnosis of Sebaceous Cysts

A sebaceous cyst can be diagnosed through a physical exam. By physically examining the cyst, as well as the symptoms presented, a specialist can tell that it is a sebaceous cyst. But if the cyst appear unusual (meaning the possibility of it being cancerous), a number of tests and exams might be recommended. These include:

  • Neck Ultrasound: An ultrasound generates images of the cyst in real time using sound waves.
  • CT Scan: A CT scan produces 3D images of the sebaceous cyst.
  • Punch Biopsy: Involves the removal of cells from the sebaceous cyst to be assessed for cancer cells.

 Treatment Options for Sebaceous Cyst

As mentioned, sebaceous cyst are not dangerous, not unless they appear unusual. Also, there is a possibility that they can disappear on their own. But as a treatment option, they are usually surgically removed, which minimizes their chance of reoccurrence.

Some of the sebaceous cyst removal options are:

  • Minimal Excision: Here the surgeon makes a very small excision to remove the cyst, which leaves a small scar that may fade over time. The disadvantage of this treatment option is that the sebaceous cyst may return in future.
  • Conventional Wide Excision: This treatment option removes the entirety of the cyst, leaving very minimal chances of it ever recurring. The downside is that the scarring can be a bit extensive.
  • Punch Biopsy: A small hole is made on the cyst, most probably with laser, then drained of the liquid.

Next Step

At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service, from initial consultation through to final diagnosis and treatment and beyond. Our team of expert doctors and nurses are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you might have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.

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