What is THAT?
When most people think of dermatology, they probably think of beauty. No longer are dermatologists known for removing embarrassing warts or moles, but for chemical peels and Botox. They are the go-to person for making skin beautifully flawless. But dermatologists also engage clients to help them deal with some of the more unsightly dermal concerns: skin abnormalities, rashes and cysts, among other things.
My own first meeting with a dermatologist was over a cyst. Cysts are a common abnormality that often appear on the face and neck, but can appear anywhere on the body. They’re just plain ugly, and coming from personal experience, I can assure you that they’re embarrassing and made me feel self-conscience. I even had people ask if I had cancer!
What is a Cyst?
A cyst is a noncancerous, closed pocket of tissue that can form anywhere in the body and is common on the skin. Skin cysts develop due to an infection, clogging of sebaceous glands (also called oil glands), and may form around foreign bodies in the skin, like piercings. Certain factors increase the possibility of developing a cyst such as:
• Age (30s or 40s)
• Damaged hair follicles (skin abrasions or wounds)
• Trauma (skin is crushed or broken from an injury, such as hitting your finger with a hammer)
• Birth Defects
Common Skin Cysts at a Glance:
Cysts are usually noticeable and tend to be slow-growing, painless and can be rolled under the skin. Some of the most common types of skin cysts include:
• Epidermoid cysts (which men are twice as likely to have): the most common type of skin cysts (this was the type I had) and are often mislabeled as sebaceous cysts, which are a rare type of cyst. Epidermoid cysts range in size from ¼ inch to 2 inches (Mine was about an inch).
• Lipoma: a fatty lump that tends to grow slowly over time and is usually discovered accidentally.
• Pilar cysts: form from hair follicles and commonly occur on the scalp.
• Milia: tiny white bumps or small cysts on the skin. These cysts are common in newborns, which then are called Epstein’s pearls, and go away on their own.
• Pilmatrixoma: a slow-growing, hard mass found beneath the skin. Occurs most commonly on the face and neck and is seen mostly in children under 10.
The treatment of most cysts depends upon cause, size and location. Removal of the cyst is done at your doctor or dermatologist’s discretion, as some cysts can be drained or aspirated, or injected with a cortisone shot (My dermatologist gave me a cortisone shot, which resulted in an infection, so instead of a smallish size cyst, I had what looked like a goiter. I went back and it was drained – yuck! – and removed). Some cysts disappear on their own without treatment. Most people elect to have their cyst drained or removed for cosmetic reasons or to prevent further growth of the cyst. Pilmatrixoma cysts are removed surgically as an outpatient procedure.
Some skin cysts can be prevented by keeping your skin clean and avoiding skin irritation. Using a shower filter that filters out harsh chlorine to keep your skin soft and less dry may help reduce irritation. Use gentle, oil-free cleansers, wear soft, cotton clothing, and adjust anything that may rub against your skin.
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