A sebaceous cyst is also known as an epidermal cyst. This is basically a lump that starts to form in the outermost layer of your skin. It happens when the sebaceous glands in your skin become blocked. Normally, the sebaceous glands are responsible for producing oil in your body. If they are blocked, a cyst can form that looks like a hollow sac. Inside, it may look yellow and fat-like with a texture that appears similar to cottage cheese.
These types of cysts are unfortunately quite common. They often develop after there is a swollen hair follicle or a skin trauma that produces a lump. While a sebaceous cyst is generally nothing to worry about, you should be concerned if it becomes infected.
What Are the Symptoms of an Infected Sebaceous Cyst?
You can tell if you have a sebaceous cyst by pressing the bump. It will generally be extremely slow growing and completely painless. Often, this cyst will be slightly movable and will be completely unnoticeable. Every once in a while, a trauma or the bacteria from your hands can end up getting the cyst infected. When you have an infection, you may experience redness or tenderness. The affected skin may become hot to the touch and filled with an oily or waxy substance. If you have an epidermal cyst, it may end up draining a gray, white, cheesy substance that has a foul odor.
While the infected sebaceous cyst is generally not a sign of anything that you have to worry about right away, there are times when you should go to your doctor immediately. If the affected area continues to become red, call your doctor. Likewise, a high fever, pus draining from the cyst, increased pain or worsening swelling are all indications that you should go to your doctor.
What Are Potential Complications With an Infected Sebaceous Cyst?
For most people, this condition will not cause any major problems. The infected sebaceous cyst can always be removed if it does cause major problems. Since the cyst generally will not be a major issue, it does not have to be removed. Instead, a warm compress or other home remedy can be used to help the cyst go away on its own.
Sometimes, the cyst may rupture. If that happens, it may cause symptoms like an infected boil. The cyst could also become swollen or painful. If this happens, your doctor may wait to operate on the cyst until it is less swollen and inflamed. In most cases however, there will not be a problem removing or draining the cyst. The cyst may reappear for some people at the same spot in the future, so it is important to follow your post-surgery instructions.
Home Treatments for an Infected Sebaceous Cyst
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is well known for its antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties. It is an excellent cleansing agent, so it can safely and effectively remove bacteria from wounds. You can apply the apple cider vinegar to your cyst using a cotton ball. Allow the vinegar to sit for 10 to 20 minutes before removing it. If it causes a stinging sensation, dilute the vinegar with water before using it. Do this process about four times a day.
2. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an antifungal and antibacterial agent that is known for its anti-inflammatory effects. It helps to reduce the inflammation that you experience, eliminate the bacteria and reduce the chances of the cyst coming back. Apply one or two drops of the oil to your cyst before covering it with a band-aid. You should remove the band-aid after eight hours and never sleep with it at night. When you wake up, perform the same action again.
3. Castor Oil
Castor oil can help with inflammation, reducing bacteria and stopping the itchiness. Soak a cotton ball or clean piece of cloth in castor oil. After that, apply it to the cyst with a warm compress on top and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. You can do this several times a day.
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is wonderful for all types of skin conditions. It can help sooth pain, itching and discomfort while killing bacteria. You can apply aloe vera gel directly on your sebaceous cyst by rubbing it gently onto the cyst. You can then repeat this process once or twice a day.
5. Warm Compress
A warm compress helps to boost your blood circulation so that the healing process is sped up. The extra blood flow helps to remove the infection while bringing nutrients to the damaged tissues. You can apply a small towel dipped in warm water to your cyst for 10 to 20 minutes. You can then repeat this process two to four times a day.
Medical Options for Treating an Infected Sebaceous Cyst
In more severe cases, you may need to have professional care to treat your cyst. Your doctor may first try to treat the infected sebaceous cyst with antibiotics like Flucloxacillin. You should follow the instructions given to you by your doctor exactly. Most likely, you will begin to feel better within the first few days, but you should take the entire course of antibiotics.
If the infection is severe, then your doctor may want to do a surgical removal of the cyst. A small cyst may be drained with a lance by your doctor before it is removed. If the cyst is quite large, the doctor may cut an oval out of either side or the center to have a hole to remove the cyst through. While these surgeries would hurt, your doctor will use a local anesthetic so that you do not feel any pain.
If you did go through surgery for the cyst, it is important that you keep the cyst clean after the surgery. You may also need to return to the doctor to have your stitches removed unless the sutures dissolve naturally. Guava leaves that are boiled in water can be used as an antiseptic wash, or you could use aloe vera to help heal the wound. Make sure to talk with your doctor before using any herbal treatment to make sure it is safe and advisable in your unique case.