A cyst is benign, non-cancerous swelling that grows just under the skin.
Cysts are essentially sacs containing fluid. The sac lining or cyst wall develops from skin cells or cells around hair follicles. Inside the sac is a thick white or yellow liquid called keratin, which is found in skin and hair.
Cysts can occur almost anywhere on the body. They can be termed ‘sebaceous cysts’, ‘epidermoid cysts’ or ‘pilar cysts’ depending ontheir location. ‘Pilar’ cysts are usually seen in the scalp whereas ‘sebaceous’ or ‘epidermoid’ cysts occur elsewhere in the body.
Cysts can grow over months or years without causing any problems. As cysts enlarge, you may feel self-conscious of the unsightly swelling, especially if it is in a visible area.
Some patients may experience symptoms such as discomfort or the cyst may ooze pungent fluid. Cysts can also become infected leading to severe pain, redness and swelling of the area.
A skin cyst and a lipoma can be differentiated by their features. A skin cyst tends to be firm to the touch, it is attached to the overlying skin and may have a ‘punctum’ which is the origin of the cyst (visible as a small dark dot on the skin).
A lipoma is an overgrowth of benign fat cells which grows slowly over years. Lipomas feel softer, lie deeper in the tissues and are never attached to the overlying skin. They rarely cause any symptoms and never get inflamed or infected.
Only infected cysts may be drained on the NHS. The vast majority of cysts are removed in the private sector. Some GPs may offer cyst removal at their GP practice but will just reoccur if the sac lining is not completely removed.
Skin cysts can be normally removed underlocal anaesthetic. First, the outline of the swelling is marked on the skin and the skin incision is marked and orientated to lie in the natural skin lines to conceal the resulting scar. Local anaesthetic is then injected to numb the area and the overlying skin is cleaned with an anti-septic solution. An elliptical incision is made over the swelling and cyst is dissected free from the surrounding tissues and removed in its entirety with the sac lining. The wound is then cauterised to stop any bleeding and closed usually with stitches and a dressing applied.
Cysts can become inflamed or infected and become swollen, red and very painful. A course of antibiotics may resolve the infection. Drainage of the cyst may be required if the infection does not settle with antibiotics. Cysts can only be drained and cannot be removed whilst infected. The cyst can be formally removed 2 to 3 months later once the infection has fully settled.
There will be a permanent scar after removal of your cyst and this is unavoidable. Other risks include, wound infection, delayed wound healing or wound separation, poor scarring (with lumpy, stretched or pigmented scarring) and recurrence of the cyst.
Although there may be a small dressing following your minor surgery, you should be able to go home straight after the procedure and return to work the next day.
Skin stitches may be required after a small cyst removal and these are removed at 7 days on the face and 10 to 14 days on other areas of the body. After 2 weeks, the wound should be healed and the scar should be with massaged daily with a moisturiser.
Although gentle exercise such as walking is fine straight after surgery, more rigorous exercise such as swimming and gym classes should be avoided for 3 to 4 weeks after surgery to avoid wound infection and wound separation. Make-up should not be applied to the wound on the face for at approximately 3 weeks or until the wound has fully healed to avoid wound infection.
An infected cyst can be drained from around £450.00 and the cost of cyst removal can be from £650.00 but varies depending on the size, location and whether it is a recurrence.