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Skin Conditions: Do I Have Acne or Sebaceous Cysts?

Acne is often mistaken for sebaceous cysts, and sebaceous cysts are often thought to be just an acne breakout. It’s time to put the confusion to rest and take a deep look into the differences between acne and sebaceous cysts.


What is it?

Acne is the result of the clogging of pores with oil and dead skin. Acne appears as white or blackheads and bumps and is usually found on the face, neck, and even the back and shoulders.

What causes it?

Many may believe that acne is caused by simply not washing your face. While this may be true for some, others may get acne due to an overproduction of oil within the body. Certain bacteria can cause acne as well. Even specific types of medication and overactive hormones can result in acne.

Can it be treated?

Absolutely! Mild to moderate acne can be treated with simple over-the-counter creams, facial washes, and maybe even oral medications. In more severe cases, individuals may opt for stronger treatment options like chemical peels, prescribed medications, and even laser therapy.

Sebaceous Cysts

What are they?

Sebaceous cysts are bumps that appear on the body, mainly on the face, neck, back, and shoulders. These bumps typically contain liquid or other pus-like materials. They appear small and grow slowly over time. Cysts aren’t generally dangerous but they have been known to cause pain and discomfort if treatment isn’t administered.

What causes them?

Sebaceous cysts are created due to damage or deformity of the sebaceous gland and/or its ducts. Sebaceous glands are glands that can be found all over the skin. Their purpose is to supply your skin and hair with a healthy dose of oil. They do this by creating sebum (natural oil) and forcing it along the ducts as a passageway to the skin hair. When this passageway becomes damaged or blocked, cysts form within them essentially commandeering the oil that was meant to travel. The sebaceous glands and ducts can be damaged due to injury or trauma of some kind. There’s also the possibility of genetic disorders that will cause the glands and ducts to be deformed.

Can they be treated?

Sebaceous cysts are a bit more difficult to treat and won’t disappear with the use of creams and washes. Instead, sebaceous cysts require surgical removal to eliminate the chance of it growing back. Another option, however, is to simply have the cyst drained of its fluids. People often opt for this method as they wish to avoid the scarring surgical removal will cause. Though draining the cysts does not get rid of it and it can possibly refill with oil later on.

Differences Between Sebaceous Cysts and Acne

Clearly, sebaceous cysts and acne are very different conditions. Acne is less severe as the issue is usually a topical one, as in the problem rarely goes deeper than the top layer of the skin. Sebaceous cysts, on the other hand, is a condition that involves glands within the skin.

The biggest difference is how each condition is treated. While severe acne can be treated by stronger means, it does not require surgery. Sebaceous cysts need to be removed surgically in order to be treated properly.

How To Know Which One You Have

Keep in mind that sebaceous cysts are filled with liquid, so they tend to be softer than acne bumps. They are also often bigger.

In order to be sure which one you have, you’ll need to see a dermatologist and receive a proper diagnosis. If you’re in central Ohio, you’re in luck because our experts at The Dermatology Group are always ready to offer consultations and treatments to anyone searching for answers. Give us a call today and come in for your own answers.

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