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Alternative names: Sebaceous cyst, epidermoid cyst, pilar cyst, acne cyst, comedone, nodulocystic acne, steatocystoma multiplex, pilonidal cyst, myxoid cyst, boil, abscess, furuncle.
Cysts arise from hair follicles in the skin and occur when the follicle becomes blocked. This gives rise to a swelling under the surface of the skin. Superficial cysts are classed as epidermoid/sebaceous whilst deeper cysts are classed as ‘pilar’. There are many other variants of cyst occurring in the skin. Most are caused by the same process as acne and may be recurrent.
Cysts look different depending in whether they are acutely inflamed/infected or chronic. Acute inflamed cysts look like tender red swellings on the skin, sometimes with a punctum in the centre that ‘leaks’ fluid, sometimes with a white pustular head. Chronic cysts are soft, smooth spherical swellings under the skin (see ‘before’ image). Pilar cysts are often in the scalp and can be quite large, occasionally causing permanent hair loss over the surface skin.
Cysts are generally not a major medical concern but they may swell up causing disfigurement, pain and sometimes discharge their contents. Occasionally they can burst giving rise to sunken scars and scalp cysts can cause hair loss in the area in from which the cyst arises.
Inflamed cysts (or acne cysts) tend to respond well to cortisone injections. They shrink and become much less inflamed all within the first 24-48 hours. Larger cysts can be surgically removed by a number of differing techniques. If cysts continue to form, then treatment is the same as for acne with a drug such as oral retinoic acid.
Our Specialist Dermatologists at the Harley Street Dermatology Clinic can offer effective treatment to patients to help treat or improve cysts. See our before and after images showing how surgical treatment can improve the cosmetic appearance of cysts. If cysts are causing you problems, there is no need to suffer further. Get in touch and let one of our consultants treat your condition.
For further information please visit the NHS website or see the British Association of Dermatology Patient leaflet