Epidermoid Cysts

What is an Epidermoid Cyst?

Epidermoid cysts are small, hard lumps that are found under the surface of the skin. These cysts are common among people and grow at a slow rate. However, these are rarely ever cancerous. They may be tan or yellow in color because of the thick, smelly pus that it contains. It usually occurs on the face, neck, back, genitals, etc. Their size ranges from ¼ inch – 2 inch in diameter. Due to their benign nature, people may ignore them unless they cause pain, swelling

Image Source: www.dermnetnz.org

and difficulty in daily life. People also refer to them as sebaceous, keratin or epithelial cysts, but they are different, sebaceous cysts arise from sebaceous glands that secrete oily matter that moisturizes the hair and the skin.

Epidermoid Cyst Causes

  • Skin trauma: When there is a lesion or injury on the surface of the skin due to any incident, an epidermoid cyst may occur. The affected area may collect dirt, skin and other material that gives way to the formation of the cysts.
  • Keratin build-up: Keratin is a material that is naturally present in the skin and hair. However, if this substance accumulates under the skin it may develop into an epidermoid cyst.
  • Hair break: Sudden break of hair and uprooting of the hair follicle can also lead to the growth of a cyst. When the hollow of the hair follicle is left empty, oil and dirt may accumulate into it and cause an infection. This may cause redness, swelling and pain.
  • HPV infection: This kind of infection occurs when the virus enters the body through a cut or abrasion or by skin to skin contact. It can also be transferred sexually.
  • Sunburn: Exposure to the sun for a long time can damage skin cells. On top of that, the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun must be avoided to prevent the occurrence of such cysts.
  • Genetics: Some individuals are likely to develop epidermoid cysts because of their genes. Their body produces more of the oily substances that accumulate to form the cysts. Image Source: www.dermnetnz.org

Epidermoid Cyst Symptoms

  • Small, round bumps found on the trunk, face or neck
  • Cyst contains a thick, smelly, yellow material
  • Pus like material may drain from the cyst
  • Constant irritation
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Tenderness in the area
  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Tiny blackhead plugs the central opening of the cyst

Epidermoid Cyst Risk Factors

Certain factors make some people more prone to developing epidermoid cysts:

  • Having a history of genetic disorders
  • Sustaining an injury to the skin
  • If the individual is past the age of puberty Image Source: en.wikipedia.org


  • Infection: Cysts may lead to an infection after they develop. The infection may also create an abscess that can be painful.
  • Rupture: In some cases the cysts may rupture, such situations require immediate medical attention. The contents of the cysts flow out of the area and may infect the surrounding area as well.
  • Skin cancer: In some cases the epidermoid cysts may result in skin cancer. This is a serious situation which requires anti-cancer treatment and therapies.
  • Inflammation: The cyst may not show signs of infection, yet they may be inflamed which makes removal of the cyst difficult. The doctor may choose to remove the cyst only after the inflammation subsides.

Epidermoid Cyst Diagnosis

  • Physical examination
  • Scraping off of skin cells for their examination
  • Biopsy
  • Through checking of the patients medical background

Epidermoid Cyst Prevention

Normally, it is not possible to prevent these cysts from occurring. However, certain measures can be taken to avoid further infection and scarring:

  • Do not use nails of other objects to scratch the area, in case of irritation
  • Do not squeeze the contents of the cyst
  • Do not try to burst the cyst by using a heavy object
  • Avoid consumption or use of any medication or ointment that has not been prescribed

Epidermoid Cyst Treatment

  • Minor surgery: The treatment is efficient and safe as it lowers the chances of the cyst from reoccurring. The doctor can remove the entire cyst and ask the patients to revisit again to remove the stitches. However, the doctors may postpone the removal procedure if there is inflammation of the cyst.
  • Injection: The method involves injecting the cyst with a medicine. This medicine is useful as it helps to reduce the swelling and pain that an individual experiences due to the cyst.
  • Incision and drainage: Although used for treating the cyst, it is not very efficient as there are high chances of reoccurring. It involves making an incision in the cyst and draining out the contents by gently squeezing it out. This is a comparatively easy procedure.

What can patient do to help?

  • Make a list of all the relevant medical information that may help in the diagnosis or the treatment procedure, such as medications, supplements, vitamins, etc. that the person may be using.
  • Make a list of questions that they want to get answers from the doctor
  • Make note of any recent injuries or surgical incisions that they may have been subject to

When to visit a doctor?

Epidermoid cysts are common among people and there is no definite way in which one can prevent them from occurring. They are benign and their symptoms may often go unnoticed. However, in some cases the cysts are painful and cause swelling and infection. To avoid further complications individuals must consult a doctor as soon as possible. Moreover, if the correct treatment is not given, there is a high chance that the cysts may reoccur.

People must take medical advice under the following circumstances:

  • Bothers the individual due to cosmetic reasons
  • Cyst grows at a rapid rate
  • Cyst ruptures
  • Unusual location such as the finger or toe
  • Keeps reoccurring in a spot where the individual experiences irritation frequently

Epidermoid Cyst Pictures:

Image Source: en.wikipedia.org


Image Source: en.wikipedia.org


Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

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