Finding a lump anywhere on your body can cause worry. But before you jump to serious conclusions, understand that in many cases that lump may simply be a cyst. And fortunately, cyst removal is a very common procedure.
Additionally, a majority of cysts are benign. But it’s always important to consult with your dermatologist for a full diagnosis and treatment plan.
What Are Cysts?
Cysts are closed structures that look like a capsule and appear sac-like in nature. They’re usually filled with a soft material that is similar to toothpaste in consistency.
Cysts can vary in size from a small dot to as big as a tennis ball. When they occur internally, they have the power to even displace the body’s internal organs.
No matter where they’re located, cysts are not a part of the normal tissues of that area. They possess their own membrane known as the cyst wall, separate from adjacent tissues.
Remember: if a sac is filled with pus then it is called an abscess or a boil. Which, coincidentally is a possible complication if a cyst is left untreated.
Types of Typical Skin Cysts
There are different types of cysts that occur on the skin. One of the main types that occur frequently are called epidermoid cysts. These are usually located most commonly on the trunk.
They affect middle-aged to older adults and can be more commonly found in people who suffer from acne. Epidermoid cysts are usually not genetic in nature.
Another common cyst is the pilar cyst, which usually manifests in middle-aged adults, especially women. Pilar cysts can be genetic, so it may be worth checking to see if there’s any family history for pilar cysts.
They are usually found in the scalp area. And a cyst that forms in the hair follicle of the eye is called a meibomian or chalazion cyst.
Common Causes of Cysts
There are a lot of factors that can cause cysts to develop.
Most skin cysts develop in the same process. Certain cells found on the skin’s top most layer produce keratin, which is one of the major proteins that makes up the top layer of the skin.
Usually, these cells find their way to the surface of the skin so they can die and shed in the form of dead skin cells. However, some of them move deep into the skin and form a sac. They continue to secrete keratin in the sac which eventually forms into a cyst.
Cyst Removal Options and Treatment Procedures
Of course, if you have an unsightly lump growing anywhere on your body, the normal reaction is the desire to want to have it removed, especially if it is too swollen and uncomfortably painful.
Keep in mind that most cysts are usually harmless, and some, when left alone, can resolve themselves. Following your dermatologist’s advice after initial consultation is imperative, but here’s what you can expect as far as treatment options go.
Resist the urge to pop any cysts on your own due to risk of causing further infection and the need for more serious medical attention. What’s worse is it will likely grow back if you fail to get the sac which is underneath the skin.
However, if your cysts look infected, your dermatologist may prescribe a round of antibiotics which will normally take a seven to ten day cycle.
The length will depend on the severity of infection. And sometimes, upon taking a dose of oral anti-bacterial medication, the swelling resolves on its own.
Draining the Cyst
In some cases, the doctor will opt to drain the cyst. As tempting as it may be to puncture a cyst on your own and expel what’s inside, try to resist. You’ll most likely exacerbate the situation and increase your down time and the risk of infection if you make a mistake. Leave the draining to your physician.
Your dermatologist will inject local anesthesia such as lidocaine to make the spot feel dull. Then, he or she will make a tiny cut on the surface of the skin to allow for the extraction of all of the material inside.
The doctor will continue to push until the cyst is completely drained. The process is quite tolerable.
The length of the procedure will vary depending on the size of what is being drained but is typically just a matter of a few minutes. It is important to take note that cysts can still return even after this procedure.
Dermatologists may also choose to inject steroids into the skin as a path of treatment of cyst removal. This helps reduce the swelling if the cysts feels tender, swollen, and is still growing. Sometimes, with this approach, the doctor combines it with another type of treatment like drainage of the cyst.
Depending on the location, this surgical procedure is usually simple, much like a mole removal. Typically, most skin cysts require minor surgery, which can be done in a clinic type of setting on a single day.
The procedure itself will not last long, and it is usually finished within an hour. You can expect to go home when the procedure is done without the need for an extended recovery time.
Your physician will inject a local anesthetic to numb the entire region. Then he or she will begin the excision process which takes out the entire cysts wall. This is one of the best procedures as it keeps the cysts from re-growing. Unfortunately, this procedure can cause slight scarring on the skin.
Cyst Removal Aftercare
Remember, after each cyst removal procedure, you have to follow your dermatologist’s specific instructions for aftercare as every case is different.
General guidelines include keeping the affected area clean, applying ointment, and replacing any dressing. Finding a cyst can be stressful, but fortunately modern treatment plans and cyst removal are easier to handle today than ever before. If you have a cyst that’s bothering you, reach out to us at the Dermatology Center of Acadiana today and schedule a consultation!