Healthcare: The Role of Primary Care Professionals

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Understanding Epidermoid Cysts

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Epidermoid cysts are relatively common bumps beneath the skin that occur due to a build-up of skin cells under the epidermis. This can happen as a result of irritation of the skin and causes keratin, a protein, to fill the cyst with a thick pus-like substance. These cysts are not cancerous and tend to be painless unless they rupture or become infected. You can develop an epidermoid cyst on any part of your body, but they are most commonly found on the chest, back, neck and face. Some people feel their self-confidence is impacted when an epidermoid cyst develops on their face and may seek treatment for cosmetic reasons, while others seek treatment to avoid or resolve an infection. Here's an overview of epidermoid cysts:


An epidermoid cyst may be skin-coloured or red in appearance, and some have a blackhead in the centre. They can grow gradually over time, and they may never bother you, but they may become infected. Signs of an infected cyst include localised swelling and reddening of the skin. The cyst may become itchy and developed a bruised look. Additionally, infected cysts can ooze pus or clear fluid.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Your GP can diagnose an epidermoid cyst by examining it. They may feel around the cyst to check for signs of inflamed tissue or growth under the skin, and if the cyst is infected, they may take a skin cell sample to have it analysed. This will determine the strain of bacteria causing the infection, which will allow your doctor to prescribe the most effective treatment.

Treatment for an epidermoid cyst consists of either draining it or surgically removing it. If you have an infected epidermoid cyst, you will require antibiotics to treat the infection and reduce inflammation before any further treatment is carried out. If you opt to have the cyst drained, this can be carried out at your GP surgery. Local anaesthetic will be injected into the site of the cyst and an incision will be made with a scalpel. The cyst will be drained, and you will have to keep it covered with a dressing for a few days to prevent infection. Drained cysts can recur, so some people opt to have their cyst surgically removed. This is usually carried out at the minor surgery department of your local hospital. The procedure requires the use of local anaesthetic and the cyst is cut out to prevent it from filling with keratin or growing again. You will typically need a couple of stitches to close the surgical site, but you can go home the same day.

If you have a cyst anywhere on your body, it's important not to self-diagnose. Schedule an appointment with your GP to confirm the type of cyst you have and arrange appropriate treatment.