A sebaceous cyst is a benign, slow-growing cyst of the skin. It’s a closed sac found under the skin. Also called wens, they are filled with a white, fatty material called keratin and dead skin cells developing underneath the skin. Keratin is a key element that your hair and nails are also made from. Although these cysts can be found anywhere on the body (except for the palms of hands and soles of feet), common areas include the scalp, ears, face, neck, upper arms, upper back, and chest. Some men might also develop a sebaceous cyst on their scrotum. But, they are not localized to just these areas, appearing anywhere except the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. The term “sebaceous cyst” refers to either epidermoid cysts or pilar cysts, the former originating from the skin and the latter from hair follicles.
Sebaceous cysts are also called wens. Anywhere you have sebaceous glands, you can also get sebaceous cysts. If you do develop a cyst, you might lose the hair on the part and around it. Sebaceous cysts are typically smooth and round, and their sizes vary.
Do you feel a hard lump under your skin? Is it irritating you? What you might have is a sebaceous cyst. They are usually harmless but are easily removed, so you don’t feel any discomfort or pain. Our surgeons are one of the best plastic surgeons in Ontario and have been performing successful plastic and minor surgeries for a long time. They have performed more than 15,000 combined successful surgeries.
Usually, a sebaceous cyst is not harmful or medically dangerous. That is why many people do not get surgery. The reasons behind surgical removal of sebaceous cysts are that they can sometimes become painful, they may appear on the exposed part of the skin and cause embarrassment for some people, and they get infected
Sebaceous cyst removal is a straightforward procedure, and our surgeons have performed it hundreds of times.
So, how will you know that the growth you have is a sebaceous cyst? Sebaceous cysts don’t proliferate. They usually take months to grow up to a few centimeters in diameter. Most of them are not painful and might only cause cosmetic issues. If they exist on the scalp, they might get caught in the comb or when you are putting your clothes on and cause pain.
If your cyst turns red and starts to hurt, that means it has become infected. A doctor might suggest a course of antibiotics for the infection. If the cyst is punctured, it might leek a white, fatty material. The cyst could also grow a tiny horn on top. They could appear beside the nail or in any other uncomfortable place like the scrotum.
The cyst might appear to be movable under the skin. Even if the cyst doesn’t hurt, the area around it might become sore.
Appearance: Generally round; soft and smooth to the touch
Size: Ranges from a few millimeters to several centimeters
Colour: Skin-coloured, tan, yellowish or reddish
Location: Anywhere on the body except for the palms of hands and soles of feet
Additional symptoms: Overlying skin may emit a foul odour; Although small cysts are not painful, large ones may cause tenderness, pressure, and/or pain
In rare cases, a sebaceous cyst can be cancerous and may exhibit the following attributes:
Sebaceous cysts form when an oil gland in your skin is blocked or damaged (often due to trauma), and grows in size due to a buildup of oil and fluid.
Examples of trauma that leads to sebaceous cysts include scratch, surgical wound, or even other skin conditions such as acne. The trauma may occur weeks or months before the cyst is noticed as these cysts take time to grow.
Two types of sebaceous cysts can form under your skin. Both of them are sacs filled with keratin and dead skin cells. The two types are:
An epidermoid cyst appears when the sac is filled with skin cells usually found on the topmost layer of the skin, called the epidermis. A pilar cyst is formed when the sac contains the cells traditionally found at the bottom of the hair follicle. The hair follicle contains the hair bulb, and that is where the hair grows. In rare cases, pilar cysts have also been observed to be hereditary.
TMSC’s board certified surgeons use local anesthesia and treat sebaceous cysts through direct surgical excision, which consists of a direct incision over the cyst, a surgical extraction of the cyst, and finally the stitching of skin. Local anesthetic is used to numb the area during the procedure.
Since sebaceous cysts are not cancerous, they do not require immediate removal. People mostly come to our surgeons when the cysts become painful or hinder their routines. They might be in a place where it feels uncomfortable and would want to have it removed.
Usually, when surgically removing a sebaceous cyst, our surgeon uses local anesthesia. Still, depending on the case and the location and size of the cyst, he could also recommend general anesthesia. Our surgeon makes sure that he removes the entire lining of the cyst during the procedure. This thoroughness ensures that the cyst will not come back after a while.
Sebaceous cyst removal surgery is completely safe and very simple. Our surgeon performs the procedure to remove the entire content of the cyst sac. They might choose to perform a wide excision, punch biopsy excision, or a minimal excision depending on the patient’s medical history, location, and cyst size. When you come to our surgeon for the initial consultation, they will explain it all to you in great detail and recommend the type of procedure he should perform.
Our surgeon usually performs a sebaceous cyst removal surgery as an outpatient case. An outpatient surgery means that you won’t have to stay overnight and go home after the cyst has been permanently removed. Our surgeon opens the cyst with a scalpel, and then depending on the type of procedure, removes the content of the sac. They do this by squeezing the keratin out of the cyst. Once all the sebum and the dead cells have been removed, our surgeon pulls the cyst out. They makes sure that the cyst doesn’t break during the procedure. Once the cyst is removed, the surgeon sterilizes the incision and stitches it close. The incision might leave a tiny scar, which will disappear with time. Our surgeon will discuss with you all the things you can do to minimize scarring.
Scarring is minimal as we understand and respect our patients’ desire to have their scars be as small as possible, and therefore take great care to ensure that your results are optimal. We also use scar management gels after surgery.
Our surgeons are highly trained and experienced professionals who care deeply about their patients. Rest assured all of our procedures are carried out with the utmost care, precision, regard for aesthetics, and in a safe environment.
Our surgeons make sure that he removes the entire content of the sac and the sac itself. After the cyst has been permanently removed, it will not grow back in the same area.
If our surgeon uses stitches to close the incision, it could take around four weeks to heal. They will call you for follow-up visits to check your wound and observe the healing process. If the wound was left open, it might take more time to heal.
Our surgeon will first use a local anesthetic to numb the area and then start the treatment. So, the only thing you will feel is the slight sting of the injection. Other than that, you won’t feel anything.
Usually, our surgeon leaves the stitches on for around four weeks, but that depends on the patient and the type of procedure that he has performed. It could be longer than that if the wound were left open. The surgeon will ask you to come for follow-up visits and remove the stitches when they feel that the incision has completely healed. If there is any problem, do not hesitate to contact your surgeon and report the problem.
Sebaceous cysts are harmless sacs filled with a white, fatty fluid of keratin and dead skin cells. They do not need to be removed unless they cause pain, cosmetic problems, or hinder your routine tasks like combing your hair or putting on your clothes.