Sebaceous Cysts Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
July 16, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

Sebaceous Cysts Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Cysts are bump-like conditions on the body. They grow under the top layer of the skin. They may feel hard on the outside, yet they contain fluid or semi-fluid liquid on the inside.

Sebaceous cysts are abnormalities grown on the upper body including scalp, face, back of the head, neck and torso. They are generally non-cancerous and are usually painful, yet doctors look for any signs of cancer cells as a risk factor during an examination.


There is a sebaceous gland in the human body that is responsible for the secretion of sebaceous oil. This oil, also known as sebum, coats the hair and skin for the protection of germs and bacteria.

The sebum or sebaceous oil is discharged through a duct. If this duct or the gland itself gets damaged or blocked somehow, such as through a surgical procedure that damages the surrounding cells, or any other injury or trauma, the oil starts to accumulate in the area.

This gradual procedure forms a tiny bump in the respective area that becomes a cyst over time. It takes weeks or even months until one starts noticing the cyst.


These sebaceous cysts are usually small in the beginning when one notices them. They are small, round, a little reddish from the top in some cases, and usually unpainful. It may become larger if left untreated and may cause discomfort.

Cysts on the face and neck region may put pressure and feel uncomfortable when that area moves. These are often soft to touch as they contain semi-liquid keratin. Keratin is a substance that is present in the sebaceous oil and makes up hair, skin and nails on our body.

These are often observed to be non-cancerous, and the rate of growth is very slow. But sometimes, these cysts may grow unusually fast and may contain cancer cells. The symptoms of cancerous sebaceous cysts are different; they have a diameter larger than 5 cm, regrow in the same or different spot soon if removed, and also the cancerous cyst may show unusual redness, a whitish discharge and may be painful.


sebaceous cysts are easy to diagnose. A simple physical exam can diagnose it; if the cyst is painful and reddish, the chances of the presence of cancer cells are high and more tests are recommended to examine the situation.

But usually, as these cysts are non-cancerous, a simple ultrasound or CT scan is needed to locate the best way for the removal of the cyst surgically.


Patients choose to treat these cysts for cosmetic purposes. The sebaceous cysts, being harmless, are removed surgically through a few procedures including wide excision, minimal excision, and laser with punch biopsy excision.

In wide excision, the cyst is completely removed but it leaves a long scar. This method is least preferred by patients as the scarring remains after this surgery. Minimal excision removes most of the cyst, leaves less scarring but it does not eliminate the risk of recurrence of the cyst.

Laser treatment is the most preferred method for the elimination of the sebaceous cyst. It involves draining the contents of the cyst through a small hole by bombarding it with a small beam of laser. The outer layer of the cyst is later removed. It leaves almost no signs of scarring and lessens the risk of recurrence down to minimal. Get in touch with a medical professional via Shifa4U if you think you might have a cyst.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.