Some skin infections may result in a tender, warm lump. The area on the skin may become red because of inflammation.
The most common areas prone to cysts and infections are the face, neck and back. Here are the causes, home remedies, treatment and removal of infected cysts.
Sebaceous cysts are also called epidermoid cysts. They are small lumps under the skin. These bumps are noncancerous as they are benign.
According to Medscape, epidermoid bumps can occur almost anywhere on the skin. However, “they occur most frequently on the face, scalp, neck, and trunk.”
- Sebaceous lumps grow slowly and may not be easily discovered until they are bigger and can be felt under the skin.
- Cysts under the skin are painless, but may hurt if infected or suffer trauma that may force them to rapture.
- “Many people refer to epidermoid cysts as sebaceous bumps, but they’re different.” [Mayo Clinic]
While they are harmless and do not require treatment, an infected cyst under the skin will require treatment. Before treatments and home remedies, here are the causes of an infected cyst on face, neck, breast, legs and back and the prominent symptoms.
What is an infected cyst?
An infected bump on the skin occurs when an oil producing gland becomes blocked. It then leaves a hollow sac that gets filled with a yellowish substance that is oily or fatty. When bacteria are introduced, the lump under the skin becomes infected.
An infected sebaceous cyst can grow into an abscess and cause pain, pus that oozes out or even a boil.
Sometimes, an infection may occur and cause “dome-shaped lesions that often arise from a ruptured pilosebaceous follicle.”
- The face, neck, legs and breast are the most common areas to get infected. These areas are easily reached. That makes it easy for you to introduce bacteria and viruses when trying to pick and pop the cysts.
- Before they get infected and turn into tender lesions and abscesses, the lumps are slightly moveable. They will feel like moveable lumps under the skin.
- A painful bump under the skin on face, legs, neck or breasts is likely to be infected.
It is possible to get an infected cyst from ingrown hair. Ingrown hairs form when hair grows back into the skin. They cause irritation under the skin and can lead to inflammation and infection as well. Before turning into abscesses, ingrown hair bumps can be hard and develop into hard spots. Such can appear on the pubic region as well.
The major cause of epidermal cysts is the accumulation of keratin and oil substances trapped beneath the skin. When dead skin cells move deeper into the skin instead of being shed off, they can form a cyst.
“The cells that form the walls of the cysts secrete a protein, keratin, into the boil.” [Everyday Health]. The result is a bump under the skin that keeps growing bigger and bigger. Their size can vary from small to pea sized cysts beneath the skin.
In some individuals, the problem is inherited. Steatocystoma multiplex is a congenital disorder that can lead to multiple cysts on the body. According to the United States National Library of Medicine:
“Steatocystoma multiplex is a skin disorder characterized by the development of multiple noncancerous (benign) cysts known as steatocystomas. These growths begin in the skin’s sebaceous glands, which normally produce an oily substance called sebum that lubricates the skin and hair”
Finally, another common cause of such infection is an ingrown hair. Such cysts develop as ingrown hair bumps and grow into small boils.
They start when the hair follicle becomes swollen and inflamed due to trauma and bacterial infections.
It is important to note that hard lumps under the skin should not be ignored. While sebaceous and epidermoid abscesses are benign or noncancerous, bumps under armpit, genital area, neck, jawline etc. can be a sign of cancer.
Here are pictures to help you with identification.
Skin cysts are not harmful unless they get infected. Sebaceous ones are not like acne cysts or ingrown hair cysts that may cause pain and discomfort. For the most part, a boil on the face, neck, legs and even pubic area is an esthetic problem.
Most people will prefer the abscesses to be removed even though they are harmless. It is very important to see a doctor when you see some of the alarming symptoms of an infection under your skin. Some bacterial infections can be serious and dangerous, especially the MRSA bacterial infections. Here are symptoms of an infected cyst.
1. Abscess or boils
Abscesses and boils normally form on the inner thighs and buttocks. They grow from infected pimples and bumps on inner thighs. An abscess can start from a clogged sebaceous gland on the skin. A cyst behind the ear can start from an infection or mastoiditis.
- An abscess or boil that results can be painful.
- Some boils ooze a cheesy fluid. This fatty substance is likely to smell bad.
- Boils normally develop when a sebaceous cyst forms from an infected hair follicle.
- “A boil is a skin infection that starts in a hair follicle or oil gland.” [WebMD]
Several days after the onset of the infection, pus cells start to collect inside the sac. This may make the abscess or lesion to turn white or yellowish. Some boils may appear green especially when the bacterial infection is severe and more advanced. If you see this symptom from your infected cyst, see a doctor for treatment. Your doctor may drain or the cyst first to prevent further infections.
2. Burst cyst under the skin
An infected boil can burst under the skin and become painful. Some cysts grow big enough to put pressure on the skin. Such cysts can burst if the keratin continues to be deposited into the cyst, making it grow bigger and bigger.
Another reason for a burst bump below the skin is trauma. If you keep on picking and disturbing the bump beneath the skin, it becomes tender and loose. Inflammation may also occur. The bump may finally burst, releasing its contents on the surface of the skin.
- In some cases, the lump bursts, causing the bacterial infection to spread on other skin tissues.
- If the infection spreads, you might start to feel a fever, pain and bleeding.
- Most of the times, those that burst are ovarian cysts. According to Fertility Chef, “…with the fluid building up over time in some cases, an ovarian cyst burst will inevitably occur.”
Whether it is with an infection or not, bursting will cause pain. Bleeding is also expected, but it is most likely going to follow pus that oozes from the lesion.
3. Oozing pus or bleeding
Cysts can be hard or tender. Hard bumps hardly have infections. Tender ones are likely to be infected and may cause fever, pain and even bleeding.
An infected cyst or epidermoid cyst infection will produce pus. If it raptures or bursts, it will ooze pus.
- The pus may smell bad, or produce a smelly, cheesy substance.
- This is due to the oil from the sebaceous gland, trapped and rotten in the body.
- Blood may also be part of the swelling depending on the cause.
4. Pain and fever
When you get an infected cyst on skin, neck, face, leg, inner thigh etc., you are likely to develop other symptoms of infections. Pain, aching and fever may be some of the signs of an infected epidermoid cyst.
This symptom may be accompanied by redness and inflammation. If you notice your epidermoid cyst produces such symptoms, then it is likely that the infection is spreading to the surrounding tissues and may require treatment.
When on back, neck and face
The mostly affected areas of the body when it comes to cysts and infections is the face, back and neck. Legs, forehead bumps and thigh lumps are also common in both men and women. The face is highly prone to these cysts because it is easily picked and touched.
- Bacteria easily spread on the skin due to this and cause infections.
- Pimple scabs and ingrown hairs can also end up as cysts that get infected on the skin.
- Areas on the face, neck and chin, when shaved are prone to ingrown hairs. Sometimes, ingrown hairs are a precursor to infected sebaceous cysts.
Infected cysts on the face may be of serious esthetic consequences. Seek treatment or removal as soon as possible. Some of them may leave scars after removal.
Big bumps can be tender and cause a lot of discomfort. When so, their best treatment is removal. Removing a cyst is done surgically. Infections can be prevented with antibiotics, but the abscess has to be drained first. Here are the common treatments and ways to get rid of cysts that are infected.
Most infections on epidermoid lumps are caused by bacteria. Your doctor will most likely need to treat the infection before removing the abscess under your skin. “…An infected cyst is extremely tender, with redness that extends well beyond the cyst cavity.”
- Excision cannot be done unless the bacterial infection is treated first.
- Most infections are caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus.
- Antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin and any other oral antibiotics can get rid of the infection.
Your doctor will have to examine it to see if it is inflamed or infected. Only bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics.
Inflamed sebaceous cysts “present as red, dome-shaped lesions that are tender to touch. Inflammation occurs when the cyst ruptures into the tissue, and only the cyst cavity is usually red.” [Source – ParkHurst Exchange]
Inflamed epidermoid cysts are treated with a corticosteroid injection such as triamcinolone. The corticosteroid can also be used topically to get rid of the inflammation. Some doctors will prescribe both oral antibiotics and a topical corticosteroid. This is usually necessary when the cyst is infected and inflamed at the same time. Excision may be done later on.
Drainage or lancing pus-filled boils
A cyst that is infected is filled with various substances. These include keratin, sebaceous oil, bacteria and dead skin cells.
One of the treatment options is lancing or draining them. Removing the pus can help with the healing process as it gets rid of the pus concentrated with bacteria.
- The doctor will apply a lance to remove the smelly pus from the swollen bump.
- The smelly pus is likely to be caused by the rotting of the material in the cyst as a result of bacterial activity.
If you want to drain it at home, try putting a warm compress on it first. This will help it drain easily without much pain. Ensure that the warm compress is not too hot as it can burn the soft tissue surrounding the sebaceous lump.
Removal or excision
Surgery is a more likely treatment option. It is applied when the cyst is big and keeps growing. Pea sized cysts, especially those that are hard may be difficult to treat. They may not go away on their own. Surgical excision to remove such bumps is done at the doctor’s office.
- Your doctor may choose the minimal excision technique to remove the lump.
- Minimal excision of cysts is a less invasive technique and may not leave the patient with a big scar.
As already noted, excision and surgical removal of cysts is only done after the infection is treated. Therefore you may not have it removed the first day you visit since the infection has to be gotten rid of.
Natural home remedies can also be of help. If the abscess is no very serious, you can try the following home treatments to get rid of the sebaceous cyst. Warm compresses, tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar and aloe vera are some of the home remedies you can use to treat the cyst at home.
1. Warm compress
A warm compress can be made at home using plastic bags and a towel. A warm compress will help improve blood circulation around the inflamed bump.
This will make it heal faster. It works by dilating the blood vessels and improve the transportation of nutrients so that tissues that are damaged within the cyst heal faster. Here’s how to use a warm compress to get rid of a sebaceous cyst infection.
- Soak a face towel in warm water.
- Wring and squeeze it to get rid of the excess hot water.
- Apply the towel on the boil for about 10 minutes.
- Repeat 4 to 6 times a day.
Warm compresses will help any toxins to be drained away from the abscess. This will promote faster healing.
2. Tea Tree oil
Tea tree oil has been used as a home remedy for all types of cysts. Epidermoid bumps and ganglion cysts are can be removed using tea tree oil. Tea tree oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to treat inflamed acne pimples and sebaceous bumps.
- Clean the area first.
- Dip a cotton ball in dilute tea tree oil.
- Place the cotton ball on it and secure it in position using a bandage.
- Leave it on the bump for a few hours.
- Remove and clean the area with warm water.
- Repeat the procedure everyday to get rid of the infected cyst fast.
If you have a sensitive skin, avoid using tea tree oil on the skin. Try to dilute it a little more, or use it for a shorter time. If it burns your skin, stop using it immediately.
3. Use Aloe Vera
Aloe vera helps a lot with skin problems. It soothes the skin and can help get rid of bacterial infections. If your cyst is inflamed due to bacterial infections and their activity, here’s how to use aloe vera to relieve the pain and treat the infection fast at home.
- Cut a fresh leaf of aloe vera.
- Squeeze it to extract the gel.
- Rub the gel on the boil.
- Do this everyday to resolve it quickly.
4. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is acidic. It is also a strong antiseptic that you can use at home. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties can help prevent and get rid of infections on the skin. Here’s how to use apple cider vinegar to get rid of cyst infections.
- Dilute organic apple cider vinegar with lukewarm water.
- Dip a cotton ball in the solution to soak it up.
- Apply the soaked cotton ball on the boil and let it stay on for about 5 minutes.
- Remove it.
- Repeat this home treatment for 5 minutes every day.
If you experience a stinging sensation on your skin when and after using this remedy. Stop using it. It can easily cause a reaction. Alternatively, try to dilute it more to reduce its acidic strength.
Should you pop a swollen sebaceous cyst? According to the National Health Service, “Don’t be tempted to pop the cyst, because if it’s infected, you only risk spreading the infection and if the sac is left underneath the skin, it can grow back.”
However, if the head of the cyst, especially if it is an ingrown hair cyst, is close to the surface, you can pop it to remove the ingrown hair. This will help the boil heal faster. Here’s how to pop it:
- Clean your hands and rinse well.
- Take a ball of tissue or cotton wool in your hand.
- Using a sterilized pin or tweezers for this purpose, prick the abscess.
- Drain the pus and pluck out any curving hair follicles.
- Clean the area well and use the cotton ball to prevent spreading the fluid to other parts.
Try to avoid popping cysts at home as you can easily spread the infection. Most swollen sebaceous glands will go away on their own. The body’s immune system will dissolve hard abscesses with time and there is no need to worry about them.