Fat cysts (or sebaceous cysts) are very common and appear on a regular and daily basis, but what are their real causes and why do they arise? We reveal it to you.

Fat cysts are a fairly common condition, although certain people may be more prone to developing them. Medically they are called sebaceous cysts, and as we will learn in more detail in the following lines, they originate mainly from the inflammation of the hair follicles.

The first thing we must do is distinguish these sebaceous cysts from what is called a Lima  (benign adipose-type tumors). Although they may seem similar since both are small lumps of fat that are found under the skin, their formation and characteristics differ.

Cysts are, therefore, an accumulation of fat under our skin. Although they could develop anywhere on our body, their most common location is on the face and trunk.

What are the causes why cysts appear?

As you know, our skin is full of pores, the small openings that connect to a follicle, and each of them has a hair and a sebaceous gland. We have a large number of hair follicles and each of them is, therefore, linked to a sebaceous gland.

These glands are responsible for producing a greasy secretion, fulfilling the function of keeping the hair and surrounding skin in good condition, as well as facilitating the transport of dead cells to the surface of the skin.

But these hair follicles, the ducts in our skin, become clogged and inflamed. This is normally the beginning of the sebaceous cyst. In any case, a skin trauma can also trigger the origin of a fat cyst.

In any of these cases, what happens is that a bag of cells develops, inside which the secretion of a protein called keratin is produced.

This obstruction is therefore responsible for the accumulation of fat and the consequent appearance of the lump. The cysts appear as attached below our skin and can often be seen as white or black dots. Over time, the accumulation caused by the obstruction of the follicle causes the cyst to grow.

The symptoms are more than obvious: a small lump begins to appear under the skin, usually slowly and painlessly. When this lump becomes infected or inflamed, other related symptoms tend to arise, such as reddening of the skin, a sensation of sensitive, sore or hot skin, as well as the output of a kind of grayish-white substance with a bad smell.

The pain appears especially when the cyst becomes infected and an abscess occurs, which consists of an accumulation of pus that in turn causes the appearance of swelling and inflammation around it.

Treatment for fat cysts

One of the most common treatments for sebaceous cysts consists of an intervention performed by a health professional -generally a dermatologist- that consists of opening the cyst and draining its contents. It is important in this procedure that the capsule that was surrounding it is completely removed to prevent another cyst from resurfacing. This intervention is performed with local anesthesia and usually almost imperceptible scars remain.

It is important for those who have this type of cyst to be careful not to contract infections, since contact with other germs or bacteria on our skin can generate pus, carrying greater risks.

If you have any doubts, and because sebaceous cysts can be confused with lymphomas or benign adipose tumors, we recommend that you go for a check-up with a dermatologist for greater peace of mind. We hope this explanation of how fat cysts appear and their treatment has been useful to you.


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