4 ways Cysts can affect you

by Dr Wan Chee Kwang
March 6, 2024

Sebaceous cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can develop in various body parts. Sebaceous cysts may not always be harmful, but they can significantly impact our lives in multiple ways. 

This article discusses four key ways cysts can affect both men and women. We will also share what treatments can effectively remove cysts. But first, to get a better understanding of what cysts are, let’s look at how they differ from skin cysts.

 Sebaceous vs skin cyst

Sebaceous cysts are often confused with skin (epidermal) cysts. They are referred to interchangeably but have different properties.

Sebaceous cysts are filled with oily sebum and are less common than epidermal cysts, which are filled with keratin and skin debris. Sebaceous cysts start in the sebaceous gland. Skin cysts, on the other hand, develop as epidermal cells move under or are covered by the skin surface.

 Pain and discomfort

Sebaceous cysts are typically not painful. These cysts form beneath the skin and are often filled with a combination of dead skin cells, oil, and other substances. While generally benign and painless, sebaceous cysts can sometimes become infected, leading to pain.

The discomfort associated with sebaceous cysts is usually a result of inflammation or infection. When the cyst becomes infected, swelling, tenderness, and redness can form around the affected area. The cyst may sometimes develop into an abscess, causing more intense pain.


Sebaceous cysts are typically situated beneath the skin and do not directly affect mobility. They can, however, impair movement based on the following factors.

  • Location: If a sebaceous cyst forms in an area subject to frequent movement, such as a joint or an area with a lot of friction, it may cause discomfort during movement. 
  • Infection or inflammation: If a cyst becomes infected or inflamed, the surrounding tissues may swell, leading to temporary discomfort and, in some cases, pain.
  • Secondary effects: In rare cases, if a cyst grows significantly, it might indirectly affect adjacent structures, potentially causing discomfort or interference with normal movement.


Cysts can affect one's appearance depending on location, size, and whether they become inflamed or infected. Here are some ways in which sebaceous cysts may impact appearance.

  • Visible bumps: Sebaceous cysts often present as round bumps beneath the skin. They may be visible as raised nodules when they are close to the surface. 
  • Changes in skin texture: The skin over a sebaceous cyst may appear stretched or have a different texture than the surrounding skin. This change can be more noticeable if the cyst becomes larger or is located in a cosmetically significant area.
  • Redness and swelling: If a cyst becomes inflamed or infected, the surrounding area may exhibit redness and swelling, drawing attention to it and affecting the skin's overall appearance.
  • Discharge or drainage: Sometimes, a cyst may discharge its contents, leading to an opening in the skin. This drainage and visible opening can lead to infection and inflammation, which can in turn lead to scarring.

 Psychological impact

The impact of cysts can extend beyond the physical aspect, affecting mental and emotional well-being.

  • Self-consciousness: Individuals with cysts in visible areas may feel self-conscious about their appearance. The noticeable lump or bump can draw attention, and the person may become hyper-aware of the cyst, leading to feelings of self-consciousness.
  • Social anxiety: A sebaceous cyst, especially if it is on the face or another prominent area, can lead to social anxiety. Individuals may worry about how others perceive them and avoid social situations or interactions due to concerns about judgment or stares.
  • Decreased self-esteem: Individuals may feel that the cyst detracts from their physical attractiveness or makes them appear less healthy, leading to negative self-perception.
  • Emotional distress: Persistent concerns about how they appear with cysts may manifest as anxiety, sadness, or frustration, particularly if the individual feels unable to control or conceal the cyst.

 How to remove a cyst

The approach to removing a sebaceous cyst depends on its type, location, and severity. Small, non-bothersome cysts may resolve on their own without intervention. However, larger or problematic cysts may require medical attention. Here are common professional cyst removal methods.


Drainage is a straightforward procedure wherein a healthcare provider uses a needle or catheter to puncture the cyst and drain its contents. This method is suitable for cysts filled with fluid, providing immediate relief from pain and discomfort. However, drainage may not always be permanent and patients may see their cysts returning.  

 Surgical excision

For complete sebaceous cyst removal, surgical excision is most effective. This procedure involves cutting out the entire cyst, including its sac and contents. Surgical excision is effective for large or recurrent cysts and helps reduce the likelihood of a cyst returning. Local anaesthesia is typically administered to minimise discomfort during the procedure.

 Minimal incision extraction

Minimal incision extraction involves expressing the cyst's contents through a small incision or punch before removing the wall. The smaller incision results in a less noticeable scar, making it suitable for cysts in visible or sensitive areas. However, it should be noted that minimal incision extraction is more technically difficult and time-consuming than surgical excision and carries a higher risk of recurrence.

 Laser therapy

Laser cyst removal is a non-invasive method to remove certain types of cysts. It involves using a laser to create a minute opening through which fine surgical instruments are inserted to clean out the contents of the cyst. Specialised tools and techniques are then used–either to coagulate and remove the cyst walls or to encourage the cyst walls to close up permanently. While this method is less invasive, it may only be suitable for some types of cysts, with varying effectiveness.

 Cyst removal in Singapore

Seeking timely medical attention is essential in maintaining quality of life. With diverse sebaceous cyst removal options in Singapore, individuals who have cysts can find relief and regain control over their health and well-being.

1Aesthetics offers surgical and non-surgical methods of cyst removal. We foster a patient-centred approach to healthcare by ensuring accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plans. Consult our experienced professionals to learn more about cyst removal treatment.


  1. Patrick M Zito, Richard Scharf. (2023). Epidermoid cyst. National Library of Medicine.

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