Epidermoid Cyst (Sebaceous Cyst), Infected (Antibiotic Treatment)

You have an epidermoid cyst. This is a small, painless lump under your skin. An epidermoid cyst (often called a sebaceous cyst, epidermal cyst, or epidermal inclusion cyst) is a term most often used for 2 similar types of cysts:

  • Epidermoid cysts. These cysts form slowly under the skin. They can be found on most parts of the body. But they are most often found on areas with more hair such as the scalp, face, upper back, and genitals.

  • Pilar cysts. These are similar to epidermoid cysts. But they start from a different part of the hair follicle. They are more likely to be on the scalp.

Here are some general facts about these cysts:

  • A cyst is a sac filled with material that is often cheesy, fatty, oily, or stringy. The material inside can be thick. Or it can be a liquid.

  • You can usually move the cyst slightly if you try.

  • The cysts can be smaller than a pea or as large as a few inches.

  • The cysts are usually not painful, unless they become inflamed or infected.

  • The area around the cyst may smell bad. If the cyst breaks open, the material inside it often smells bad as well.

Your cyst became infected and your healthcare provider wanted to treat it with antibiotics. If the antibiotics don’t clear up the infection, the cyst will need to be drained by making a small cut (incision). Local anesthesia will be used to numb the area.

Home care

  • Resist the temptation to squeeze or pop the cyst, stick a needle in it, or cut it open. This often leads to a worsening infection and scarring.

  • Take the antibiotic as directed until it is all used up.

  • Soak the affected area in hot water or apply a hot pack (a thin, clean towel soaked in hot water) for 20 minutes at a time. Do this 3 to 4 times a day.

  • Apply antibiotic cream or ointment 3 times a day.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another medicine was given. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

Prevention

Once this infection has healed, reduce the risk of future infections by:

  • Keeping the cyst area clean by bathing or showering daily

  • Avoiding tight-fitting clothing in the cyst area

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If a gauze packing was put in your wound, it should be removed in a few days as advised by your healthcare provider. Check your wound every day for the signs listed below.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pus coming from the cyst

  • Increasing redness around the wound

  • Increasing local pain or swelling

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your provider

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