Maybe you haven’t heard of sebaceous cysts, but many women get them and don’t realize what they are. Sebaceous cysts are small bumps that are right under the skin—closed sacs that have sebum in them. Sebum is an odorless, oil-like substance. Sometimes sebaceous cysts are confused with epidermoid cysts, but they’re different in that the latter contain keratin, which often has an unpleasant odor.
Sebaceous cysts are often found on the trunk, face, and neck, but can also be found in the vaginal area. Women often fear that they’re a result of genital herpes when the cysts are found in the genital area. But genital herpes is not merely a bump under the skin—they actually make a sore that becomes crusty and is blister-like.
Sebaceous cysts often result from skin trauma or swollen hair follicles and are usually painless. They’re typically slow-growing small lumps that freely move beneath the skin. If you have a sebaceous cyst, you should avoid touching it or trying to get rid of the substance that’s inside in order to prevent swelling, tenderness, or infection. If your sebaceous cyst is tender, red, or has increased in temperature in its area, it might be infected.
Usually, a doctor can easily diagnose a sebaceous cyst based on its appearance. However, in some cases a biopsy may be needed for a rule-out of other conditions that might have a similar appearance. Most sebaceous cysts go away on their own and aren’t dangerous. Unfortunately, sometimes they become large enough that they can get in the way of a person’s daily activities. This is where surgery at your doctor’s office may become necessary. If your cyst is small, but becomes inflamed, it may be treated with antibiotics or steroids.
Infected sebaceous cysts can become painful abscesses. Make sure to call your doctor if you notice any type of growth on your body. It’s important for your doctor to be able to rule out more dangerous conditions, even if sebaceous cysts are typically harmless.