Epidermoid cysts are common, benign growths that occur under the skin and can grow large if left untreated. Most epidermoid cysts are a nuisance problem; however, they can become painful and infected. If you develop a cyst there are ways to manage the problem and reduce the likelihood of infection and recurrence.
Leave Them Alone
Epidermoid cysts can be easy to confuse with some types of acne, especially when the cyst is small. If you cannot definitively determine whether you have a characteristic whitehead or blackhead, it is always better to leave the area alone. This includes any medicated washes or acne treatments you would typically use. Additionally, you should never attempt to extract a cyst yourself. Disturbing the cyst is likely to force the contents out of the cyst wall and into the surrounding area, leading to inflammation or infection. When cysts are infected, the underlying culprit is usually staph bacteria (or specifically MRSA). You never want to risk spreading the infection around, especially if the cyst is located near sensitive areas, such as your eyes or the genitoanal region.
Act Promptly With Signs Of Inflammation
Some people may have an epidermoid cyst for years and if it is not in an obvious area or is painless, they may not seek treatment. If you notice signs of inflammation, you should act promptly, since it is impossible to determine if the cyst is simply inflamed or infected. An inflamed cyst will behave much like an infected one, but upon inspection of its contents there are no signs of bacteria. Inflammation without infection is just your body's way of trying to eliminate the cyst on its own.
A previously painless cyst may become painful, hot to the touch, and red if it is inflamed. In more serious cases, you may experience a fever, chills, and/or nausea, which can indicate infection. Your doctor may want you to take antibiotics and administer a steroid injection into the cyst to help reduce inflammation and control a possible infection before extraction.
Follow Up On Inflamed Cysts
Many people visit the emergency room or urgent care for inflamed or infected cysts. In urgent care situations, you will likely have the cyst drained and may be instructed to take antibiotics. You may also have wound care instructions, since the area around an inflamed/infected cyst cannot be closed; the incision must heal from the inside out. When the incision is left open, it is typically packed with iodoform gauze to allow any infection to drain and to avoid the skin from closing or scabbing over the area prematurely. If the skin heals prematurely, it could trap bacteria causing a subsequent infection.
Make sure you follow up with a general practitioner or dermatologist after your visit. To reduce the likelihood of the cyst returning, the incision must be completely checked to ensure there is no remaining cyst wall. This extra step may not be performed in urgent care situations because preventing the return of the cyst is not a priority—stopping the infection is. Some general practitioners will extract cysts in their office, but many opt to refer you to a dermatologist for the procedure. Whichever doctor you follow up with may want you to return more than once to monitor the progress of the incision and repack the area.
Monitor The Area
After the incision has healed successfully, it is good practice to periodically monitor the area for any signs of cyst regrowth. Ensuring the entire cyst wall and its contents are removed can be more difficult in certain situations. If the doctor could not remove the entire cyst in one piece, there could be fragments remaining. Additionally, if the cyst wall has begun to liquefy when it was removed, it can be difficult to fully visualize any remnants in the incision. If you begin to feel a lump where the old cyst was located, you should consult the doctor who removed the cyst to determine if it is scar tissue or the cyst reforming. Since epidermoid cysts are much easier to remove when they are small, they will likely want to make another attempt at a complete removal.
Although epidermoid cysts are unlikely to cause significant problems, they can make you feel self-conscious about your appearance. Extraction of your cyst before it becomes inflamed/infected will give you the best chance at eliminating the problem permanently. Check out a site like http://www.thefamilyhealthcntr.com for more information.