Stinky, Irritating, Curd Releasing Lumps…AKA Cysts!

I’m sure these pungent bumps are almost on the list as a top 20 wonder of the world. They are a bump of many names including; cyst, infundibular cyst, epidermal inclusion cyst, sebaceous cyst, or pilar cyst (when on the scalp). These weird lumps form most often on the face, back, scalp, ears, arms, genitals, or chest. They arise out of the blue but may also occur at sites of trauma or injury, typically in people 30 or older. It all starts with a plugged follicle that lets keratin (a protein that makes up the outer layer of human skin) build upper under the skins surface. Once a stockpile of keratin forms, the body wraps the curdy contents in a capsule, something like a balloon. At times, the cyst will fill up and get angry and red, sometimes bursting into the surrounding skin. But most often, the cyst will just sit there consuming space on your body and annoying you with its presence.

So how does one treat these bumpy narks? At home, you may try warm compresses for 5-7 minutes a few times a day, to encourage the punctum (cyst hole) if present, to open and expel contents. Grab a pal (a non-squeamish one) to be a personal pimple popper and express the contents to the surface. Keep the area clean with soap and water or a mixture of water with hydrogen peroxide.

Seek professional help for stubborn nodules with a dermatology clinician. In office, we can inject inflamed cysts with a liquid steroid for calming, or lance it open and expulse the contents. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed. The worst of cysts, can be scheduled for surgical removal of the sac and all, to hopefully send them to an eternal grave.

For the bumps that aren’t bothersome, you may choose to allow their residence in your skin and just observe for concerning changes.

Most cysts are typically benign, but with any concern, you should always see your skin specialist.

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