What do you know about sebaceous cysts?
January 30, 2005 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Anyone know anything about sebaceous cysts?

Warning in advance - this may be a bit gross. I get these fairly often, and usually by nature of leaving them alone they go away. I have one on my (shall we say) upper thigh, that is being irritated by the motion of walking, and is getting larger. It's not painful or dangerous to have, just unsightly. I've had one removed from my eyebrow, and from the area where one of my sideburns grows, and all the doctor ended up doing was cutting it open and sqeezing really hard. It hurt like hell, but they didn't come back.

I'd like to get rid of this one without having to involve a professional, seeing as how I'm without medical insurance right now. I'm not squeamish or pain-averse, but also don't want to accidentally harm myself. Anyone have any thoughts, theories, or words of advice?
posted by GriffX to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
Lots of hot compresses.

If it starts getting worse, don't screw around - you need to get it addressed. During a period of acute irritation/infection, the actual cyst capsule can't be excised due to inflammation. After everything goes back to normal you can have the capsule cut out.

I assure you there's no way you can remove this yourself. You could, certainly, lance it, and develop a godawful infection.

If, at this point, it is merely irritated, you might just try keeping it covered with a simple bandage and see if that helps.

Good luck.
posted by docpops at 9:48 PM on January 30, 2005

I imagine that any low-cost walk-in clinic can handle this. A do-it-yourself solution likely runs the risk of infection, which is painful, dangerous and unsightly.
posted by SPrintF at 9:52 PM on January 30, 2005

This past summer I suddenly started getting large sebaceous cysts on my face. (By my ear, on my chin, on my jaw.) Because they were appearing in really visible spots, I did a lot of research into them (prevention, removal, etc), including visiting two GPs, three dermatologists, a naturopath, and a tropical medicine specialist. All of their combined wisdom is this: they don't know what causes them, and they don't know how to make them go away, other than cutting them out, or shrinking them with injections of cortisone. (Which didn't always work for me.)

So now I can save you the bother of schlepping to a million different doctors!
posted by Kololo at 1:58 AM on January 31, 2005

Again.. :) what docpops said. Good advice.

If you end up going to a clinic.. the "cutting it open and sqeezing really hard" part can be made easier and less painful if you've been doing hot compresses regularly, and then doing it just before the procedure.. AT the office (15 minutes before the ouch).

Also.. what Kololo says. No one really knows what causes them.. a little gland goes hyper and waaay overproduces sebum.

At least you recognize what's happening faster, after dealing with a previous occurence.
posted by reflecked at 2:36 AM on January 31, 2005

If you're going to get insurance at some point in the relatively near future, you might be able to live without treatment for a little while. I had a cyst that started as a small lump near my cheekbone; over time (a year, I think), it'd periodically swell and (gross part) 'weep' like a popped zit, then shrink to near nothingness. I was told this cycle would continue until I had it removed.

A word of advice more for others than for Griffx: My doctor did a crap job of removing it, and I have a scar there now, so if you find yourself in a similar situation, stick to a doctor who's removed a few before.
posted by kimota at 5:50 AM on January 31, 2005

I highly recommend acupuncture for these types of things. It's worked like a charm for me (and I'm a dermatologist's daughter who, for years, went for the antibiotic in a heartbeat).

Eastern medicine considers this the manifestation of "damp heat." These cysts are similar to styes and things like mastitis (something that breastfeeding women occasionally suffer through). Diet-wise they are linked to mucus-forming "damp" foods like dairy and heat producing things like alcohol, etc. A dry cooling food I gravitate toward when I get clobbered w/ such things are adzuki beans.
posted by tidecat at 7:01 AM on January 31, 2005

If you can find an ointment with ichthammol, often called "drawing out" or just drawing salve, this will help draw them to a head. Boil-Ease has some ichthammol in it, but it seems to be pretty weak. (Eckerd drugstores carried a store brand Drawing Out Salve that was amazing, even if it smelled like gasoline. Sadly, Eckerd is pretty much gone and CVS, who took some of the old stores over, doesn't seem to make their own version.)

Sometimes they're caused by staph; it's wicked hard to knock out for good so they come back, often under stress or when less-aired areas get irritated.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:44 AM on January 31, 2005

I had one of these on my lower back (I thought I'd injured my coccyx or something, but nope) and I pretty much just got the lance/cover up and keep clean/antibiotics treatment, which I suppose you could do yourself but, erm, I definitely wouldn't.
posted by eatcherry at 10:59 AM on January 31, 2005

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