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Cysts and Lipomas

Tuesday, 23 December 2014 00:00

Cysts and lipomas are slow growing and non painful skin coloured tumours. Patients often use both these terms thinking they are the same, so it is worth clarifying matters.

Epidermal cysts are somewhat hard and are found more superficially on the skin, while the are mobile. Very often, there are more than one found on the same person, while if one's parents have these cysts, it increases the chances of developing one. Essentially, they are small bags composed of sebum producing cells. Sebum is an oily substance that lubricates and protects our skin when excreted on its surface. In the case of cysts instead of it reaching the surface, it becomes entrapped inside the skin. This cyst may remain stable in size or it may grow. 

Problems arise when sometimes, especially after pressures, the walls of the cyst rupture. Sebum is then released inside the skin and our organism raises a 'foreign' body reaction, an inflammatory response. This is because under normal circumstances sebum is found above the epidermis and not in our skin. In these cases, therapy is required with local steroids, antibiotics and possibly a surgical incision to release pus. 

When a number of days have passed and the inflammation is gone, it is preferable to have a surgical removal of the remains of the 'bag' left-overs to avoid relapses. To avoid this complication and to achieve an optimal aesthetic result, it is better to remove cysts before-hand as a form of prevention. Cyst removals are performed under local anesthesia and the incision required is much smaller than the size of the cyst.

Lipomas are benign tumours of fat cells, found deeper in the skin compared to cysts. They are also mobile but softer when pressed. They usually do not cause any problems other than cosmetic ones, unless they grow excessively and start causing functional difficulties i.e. restricting movement. They are treated with surgical excision under local anesthesia, to exclude the possibility of a relapse, or with liposuction, which has an optimal aesthetic result since no incision is required, but it cannot exclude the possibility of a relapse.

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