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What is a Cyst?

A cyst is a pocket of tissue (sometimes called a “sac”) that becomes filled with material normally produced by the body. This material could be pus (inflammatory cells), skin cells, scar tissue, or fluid. The cyst or cyst-like lesion may feel either soft or hard (calcified and scarred).

Cysts can be found anywhere on the body and are usually slow-growing, painless, freely movable lumps beneath the skin. Occasionally, however, a cyst will become inflamed and tender.

While most cysts are benign lesions, they may often be problematic if they enlarge, become tender, begin to drain, or are found in a location that begins to interfere with normal everyday activities. To help you get back to the things you enjoy, our team of board-certified dermatologists at The Dermatology and Skin Surgery Center of Wilmington in North Carolina are ready to provide a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan!

Types of Cysts or Lesions That May Appear Similar to Cysts

From your head to your toes, cysts can develop anywhere on the body. There are many different types of cysts, with the majority being harmless and easily treatable. Here are the most common types:

Epidermal Cysts (often nicknamed Sebaceous Cysts)

One of the more common benign skin tumors, an epidermal inclusion forms from an often unidentifiable event, which forces the epidermis (outer layer of skin) to grow inward toward a hair follicle rather than being shed away. The pore gradually swells and enlarges as it fills with these dead skin cells over time.

Epidermal cysts develop in many different areas of the body, with the more common areas being the torso, including the chest and back, as well as the face and neck region. The classic appearance of an epidermal cyst is a lump in the skin with an overlying prominent pore called a punctum.


Dermatofibromas are small firm nodules on the body, which may feel or look like scar tissue. This type of lesion is usually a small, harmless growth (called nodule) that appears on the skin and can be mistaken for a cyst. Though dermatofibromas can be found anywhere on the body, it is most commonly found on arms, lower legs, and upper back.

Dermatofibromas are firm to the touch and very dense, with many saying the lesions feel like a small stone under the skin. Though most dermatofibromas are painless, some people experience itching or irritation at the site of growth.

Ganglion Cysts

A ganglion cyst is a round, fluid-filled lump of tissue that usually appears along tendons or joints, especially in the hands, wrists, ankles, and feet. The cause of ganglion cysts is unclear, but fluid accumulation can occur due to injury, trauma, or overuse. Most of the time, ganglion cysts are harmless and painless, but in some cases, they can grow too large and put pressure on joints or other structures.

Pilar Cysts

Also known as trichilemmal cysts, pilar cysts develop within the hair follicle. In most cases, these cysts form on the scalp. This type of cyst is typically filled with keratin, which is what hair and fingernails are made from.


Cysts FAQs

Cysts form due to a variety of reasons. They can be caused by:

  • Infections
  • Injury
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Blockage in ducts, follicles, glands, or pores
  • Inherited diseases or conditions

Usually, a cyst will appear as a bump on your skin or a small lump under your skin. Sometimes a cyst isn’t immediately visible, but it will typically feel smooth to the touch and may roll under the skin. Cysts can vary in color, size, and shape, depending on the type.

Treatment or removal of a cyst depends on the type, but the most common methods include:

  • Draining fluids and other matter from the cyst using a needle.
  • Administering medications, such as a corticosteroid injection, to reduce inflammation in the cyst.
  • Surgical removal of the cyst. This may be done if draining doesn’t work or if you have an internal cyst that’s hard to reach and requires a more advanced treatment.

In most cases, a board-certified dermatologist can remove a cyst under local anesthesia with minimal discomfort. After the lump is removed, you may notice some swelling, and you’ll need to keep the surgical site clean and protected as it heals. Within just a few weeks the area should heal with minimal scarring.


Pictures of Cysts


Schedule an Appointment at The Dermatology and Skin Surgery Center for Cyst Diagnosis & Removal

Our board-certified dermatologists at The Dermatology & Skin Surgery Center are ready to help diagnose and find an effective treatment plan for your cysts! Give us a call at 910-782-0028 or request your appointment online and someone from our friendly staff will follow up with available times and dates.

Contact Us Today

Have questions or concerns? Please call us at 910.782.0028.

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