Cysts, or dilated and overgrown hair follicles, can occur anywhere on the body where hair grows. Cysts can be superficial or deep, depending on the location of wall of the hair follicle being dilated. They can appear white, flesh-color or red depending on the depth and inflammation of the follicle contents. They start out small but can become quite large as the contents accumulate in the sac. For the most part these are benign lesions, but they can grow and become tender causing disability and even scarring.
If these are in bothersome areas (body folds, scalp, back) they can become subject to repetitive trauma and consequently infection and pain. Rarely what can clinically appear as a cyst could be another type of growth, so excising it allows for microscope confirmation of a benign lesion. At Michigan Dermatology Institute, we prefer to treat the spots that are at risk of infection and scarring to avoid these unnecessary consequences.
Q: Why am I getting cysts?
A: Unfortunately these are just common growths that happen to many people. There is some part that is inherited, and some part is environmental (skin care and activities affecting the follicles). Once they form they do not go away, so if they are becoming bothersome it is best to treat the cyst while it is as small as possible to avoid scarring.
Q: What kinds of treatments are available?
A: There are many options available to treat these spots, ranging from procedures (incision and drainage, destruction via curettage or chemosurgery, benign excision) to medical therapies (topicals and orals). The important thing is to understand the risks, benefits and expectations of each treatment option.