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Skin Cyst

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Last updated June 11, 2022

Skin cyst quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your skin cyst.

Skin cyst quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your skin cyst.

Take skin cyst quiz

What is a skin cyst?

A skin cyst is a small sac or lump that’s filled with fluid, air, fat, or other material like keratin. A skin cyst can grow anywhere on the body, just beneath the skin. Most skin cysts are epidermal inclusion cysts, which contain keratin and have a pore in the center.

When cysts become infected or inflamed they become painful, red, and may ooze pus.

A skin cyst feels like a firm ball under the surface of your skin. Sometimes you’ll see an opening on top of the cyst that may be filled with pus or keratin (a white cheese-like material).

Symptoms

  • Skin-colored, marble to golf ball-sized bump with or without a central opening (pore)
  • May have oozing of keratin (a white cheese-like material) from the center
  • When inflamed or infected, it becomes red and painful

Treatment

A small cyst does not require treatment. But if it bothers you or interferes with movement, a dermatologist can cut it out by doing a simple surgical procedure called an excision. Don’t try to “pop” a cyst yourself, since it can become inflamed or infected.

If the cyst becomes infected, you should see your doctor. The treatment for an infected cyst is cutting open the cyst and draining the pus. You may also need to take antibiotics.

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Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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