What is Inside a Sebaceous Cyst?


A sebaceous cyst is a common type of cyst that forms within the sebaceous glands of the skin. These glands are responsible for producing an oily substance called sebum, which helps to keep the skin moisturized. When the ducts of these glands become blocked, sebum can accumulate and form a cyst. In this article, we will explore in detail the contents of a sebaceous cyst.

1. Introduction to Sebaceous Cysts

A sebaceous cyst is a noncancerous growth that usually appears as a round, firm lump under the skin. It is typically filled with a yellowish, oily substance known as keratin and sebum. Sebaceous cysts can occur anywhere on the body, but they are most commonly found on the face, neck, back, and genitals.

1.1 Formation of Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous cysts form when the sebaceous glands become blocked or damaged. This can happen due to a variety of factors, including hormonal imbalances, trauma to the skin, or a buildup of dead skin cells. When the flow of sebum is obstructed, it accumulates within the gland, leading to the formation of a cyst.

1.1.1 Hormonal Factors

Hormonal imbalances, such as those that occur during puberty or menopause, can increase the production of sebum and make the skin more prone to developing cysts. This is why sebaceous cysts are often seen in teenagers and pregnant women.

1.1.2 Trauma to the Skin

Injury or trauma to the skin can also cause sebaceous cysts to form. When the skin is damaged, the healing process can sometimes result in the formation of a cyst. This is especially common in areas that are frequently subjected to friction or pressure, such as the scalp or buttocks.

2. Contents of a Sebaceous Cyst

The contents of a sebaceous cyst can vary depending on its age and size. However, most sebaceous cysts contain a combination of sebum, keratin, and other cellular debris. Let’s take a closer look at each of these components:

2.1 Sebum

Sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands. Its primary function is to moisturize and protect the skin. Sebum is composed of lipids, cholesterol, and fatty acids, which help to maintain the skin’s barrier function. When the flow of sebum is disrupted, it can accumulate and form a cyst.

2.1.1 Composition of Sebum

The composition of sebum can vary depending on factors such as age, sex, and hormonal status. On average, sebum is composed of approximately 57% triglycerides, 26% wax esters, 12% squalene, and 5% cholesterol esters. These components work together to provide the skin with its natural moisture and lubrication.

2.2 Keratin

Keratin is a protein that is found in the outer layer of the skin, hair, and nails. It is produced by specialized cells called keratinocytes. When the sebaceous gland becomes blocked, keratinocytes can become trapped inside the cyst, leading to the accumulation of keratin.

2.2.1 Structure of Keratin

Keratin is a fibrous protein that forms a protective barrier on the skin’s surface. It is composed of amino acids, which are linked together to form long chains. These chains are then folded and cross-linked to create a strong, durable structure. The presence of keratin in a sebaceous cyst gives it a thick, cheesy consistency.

2.3 Cellular Debris

In addition to sebum and keratin, sebaceous cysts can also contain other cellular debris. This can include dead skin cells, white blood cells, and bacteria. The presence of cellular debris can contribute to the inflammation and infection often associated with sebaceous cysts.

3. Diagnosis and Treatment of Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous cysts are usually diagnosed based on their appearance and location. A healthcare professional may perform a physical examination and may also order imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI, to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment options for sebaceous cysts include:

3.1 Watchful Waiting

If a sebaceous cyst is small and not causing any symptoms, a healthcare professional may recommend a watchful waiting approach. This involves monitoring the cyst for any changes and only intervening if it becomes larger or starts to cause discomfort.

3.1.1 Rupture of the Cyst

In some cases, a sebaceous cyst may rupture on its own, releasing its contents onto the skin’s surface. This can lead to temporary relief of symptoms, but it may also increase the risk of infection and scarring.

3.2 Incision and Drainage

If a sebaceous cyst becomes infected or causes significant discomfort, a healthcare professional may recommend incision and drainage. This procedure involves making a small incision in the cyst and draining its contents. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat any underlying infection.

3.2.1 Potential Complications

Although incision and drainage can provide temporary relief, it does not remove the cyst wall. As a result, the cyst may recur in the future. In some cases, surgical removal of the cyst may be necessary to prevent recurrence.

3.3 Surgical Removal

If a sebaceous cyst keeps recurring, becomes large, or causes persistent symptoms, a healthcare professional may recommend surgical removal. This procedure, known as excision, involves cutting out the entire cyst, including its contents and the surrounding capsule.

3.3.1 Excision Techniques

There are several techniques that can be used to perform an excision, including simple excision, punch biopsy, and laser surgery. The choice of technique will depend on factors such as the size and location of the cyst, as well as the preferences of the healthcare professional.

4. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQ 1: Are sebaceous cysts contagious?

No, sebaceous cysts are not contagious. They are caused by a blockage of the sebaceous glands and are not caused by an infectious agent. However, if a sebaceous cyst becomes infected, it can potentially spread the infection to other parts of the body.

FAQ 2: Can sebaceous cysts be prevented?

While it may not be possible to prevent all sebaceous cysts, there are some measures you can take to reduce your risk. These include keeping your skin clean, avoiding excessive oil-based products, and protecting your skin from trauma or injury.

FAQ 3: Are sebaceous cysts cancerous?

No, sebaceous cysts are almost always benign and not associated with cancer. However, in rare cases, a sebaceous cyst may contain a type of skin cancer called a sebaceous carcinoma. It is important to have any suspicious cysts evaluated by a healthcare professional.

FAQ 4: Can sebaceous cysts be drained at home?

No, it is not recommended to drain a sebaceous cyst at home. Attempting to do so can increase the risk of infection and may cause the cyst to recur. It is best to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

FAQ 5: How long does it take for a sebaceous cyst to heal after surgery?

The healing time after surgical removal of a sebaceous cyst can vary depending on factors such as the size and location of the cyst, as well as individual healing abilities. In general, it may take a few weeks for the wound to heal completely.

FAQ 6: Can sebaceous cysts come back after surgery?

There is a possibility of sebaceous cysts recurring after surgical removal. This can happen if the entire cyst and its capsule are not completely removed during the procedure. In some cases, a second surgery may be necessary to ensure complete removal.

FAQ 7: Can sebaceous cysts be treated with antibiotics?

Antibiotics are usually not effective in treating sebaceous cysts on their own. However, if a cyst becomes infected, antibiotics may be prescribed to help clear the infection. It is important to follow the prescribed course of antibiotics and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or do not improve.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, a sebaceous cyst is a common type of cyst that forms within the sebaceous glands of the skin. It is typically filled with a combination of sebum, keratin, and other cellular debris. While sebaceous cysts are usually benign, they can become infected or cause discomfort. Treatment options include watchful waiting, incision and drainage, and surgical removal. It is important to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment of sebaceous cysts.

Rate article
Add a comment