What is the Difference between Epidermal and Epidermoid Cyst? Explained

If you’re someone who’s been curious about the topic of skin cysts, chances are you’ve come across the terms epidermal and epidermoid cysts. But what exactly are the differences between the two types?

Epidermal cysts, also known as sebaceous cysts, are small bumps that develop just below the skin’s surface. These cysts are typically filled with a thick, oily substance called sebum, and they can occur anywhere on the body. On the other hand, epidermoid cysts are a type of cyst that forms when skin cells become trapped beneath the surface of the skin. Unlike epidermal cysts, epidermoid cysts are typically filled with keratin, a protein that makes up hair, nails, and the outer layer of skin.

It’s easy to see how the two types of cysts could be confused for one another, given that they both often appear as small, round bumps on the skin. However, understanding the key differences between the two can help you better identify and manage these common skin growths. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what sets epidermal and epidermoid cysts apart, and explore some of the common causes and treatment options for each.

Types of Skin Cysts

There are different types of skin cysts, each with their unique characteristics that set them apart from one another. Some of these cysts are benign and do not require treatment, while others may need medical attention depending on their location or size. Below you will find the most common types of skin cysts:

  • Epidermal cysts: These cysts occur when skin cells move deeper into the skin and form a sac that contains keratin, a protein found in hair and nails. They can appear anywhere on the body, but are most commonly found on the face, neck, chest, and back. They are also known as “sebaceous cysts,” but this term is misleading as they are not related to sebaceous glands.
  • Pilar cysts: These cysts are similar to epidermal cysts but develop around hair follicles, hence their other name of “trichilemmal cysts.” They most commonly appear on the scalp.
  • Epidermoid cysts: These are often mistaken for epidermal cysts as they look and feel similar, but their origin is different. Epidermoid cysts are formed from the cells that make up the top layer of the skin (epidermis) and can occur anywhere on the body.
  • Dermoid cysts: These are rare cysts that develop from embryonic tissue and can contain hair follicles, sweat glands, and sometimes even teeth. They can appear on the face but are more commonly found in the ovaries, testes, and spinal cord area.

While these types of cysts are typically benign and do not require treatment, there are situations when medical attention is necessary. For example, if a cyst becomes infected, it may need to be drained or removed. Additionally, if a cyst grows too large or is located in a sensitive area such as the eye or ear, surgical removal may be recommended. Consulting with a dermatologist is the best way to determine the appropriate treatment for a skin cyst.

Causes of epidermal and epidermoid cysts

Epidermal and epidermoid cysts are common skin conditions that tend to occur in areas where there are hair follicles. They usually appear as small, round, firm bumps that develop beneath the skin’s surface. While they may look similar, there are differences between them, including their causes.

  • Epidermal cysts: These cysts are caused by an overgrowth of cells within the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin. This can happen as a result of trauma to the skin, such as a cut or puncture wound, or a blocked hair follicle. Epidermal cysts may also form due to a genetic predisposition, hormonal changes, or a weakened immune system.
  • Epidermoid cysts: Unlike epidermal cysts, the cells that form epidermoid cysts are trapped beneath the skin’s surface during development. These cells are called keratinocytes, and they are the same cells that make up the outer layer of the skin. Epidermoid cysts may develop due to a defect in the skin’s development or a blocked hair follicle.

Both types of cysts can be caused by trauma to the skin or a blocked hair follicle, but epidermoid cysts are often caused by a developmental defect. Epidermal cysts, on the other hand, may develop due to a genetic predisposition or weakened immune system. Hormonal changes may also play a role in the development of epidermal cysts.

Symptoms of epidermal and epidermoid cysts

Epidermal and epidermoid cysts are both small bumps that often appear on the skin. However, while they may look similar, they have some distinct differences in their symptoms. Here are some of the symptoms that can help you distinguish between these two types of cysts:

  • Epidermal cysts usually have a small opening in the skin where a thick, yellow substance can be squeezed out. They tend to be flesh-colored or white and are often sensitive to the touch.
  • Epidermoid cysts, on the other hand, usually do not have an opening in the skin. They are often deeper under the skin and may feel like a hard lump. Epidermoid cysts can grow larger over time and may become painful if they are located in an area that experiences frequent pressure or friction.
  • Both types of cysts may be accompanied by redness and inflammation around the bump. If the cyst becomes infected, it may also be warm to the touch and produce pus.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment. Even though epidermal and epidermoid cysts are usually harmless, they can become infected or cause discomfort if left untreated.

Diagnosis of Epidermal and Epidermoid Cysts

Diagnosing epidermal and epidermoid cysts may require several steps. Here are the most common ways of identifying these types of cysts:

  • Physical examination – A doctor can usually diagnose epidermal and epidermoid cysts by examining the skin. The cysts usually have a characteristic appearance, including a smooth and round or oval shape. They may also be white or yellow in color.
  • Ultrasound – If the cyst is located in a deep area of the body, an ultrasound may be necessary. An ultrasound can help determine the size, location, and characteristics of the cyst.
  • Biopsy – In some cases, a biopsy of the cyst may be necessary to rule out the possibility of skin cancer or other serious conditions. During a biopsy, a small sample of tissue is removed for examination under a microscope.

If you suspect you have an epidermal or epidermoid cyst, consult your doctor. They can help diagnose the cyst and recommend the appropriate treatment for your specific case.

In some cases, a dermatologist or a skin specialist may be required for a more accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosis method Pros Cons
Physical examination – Non-invasive
– Can be done quickly
– May not be accurate for deep cysts
– May require further testing for confirmation
Ultrasound – Non-invasive
– Can provide detailed information about the cyst
– May not be easily accessible or affordable for everyone
– May require a referral from a doctor
Biopsy – Can confirm the diagnosis
– Can rule out other conditions
– Requires an invasive procedure
– May cause discomfort and scarring
– Requires further lab testing

All in all, getting a proper diagnosis for epidermal and epidermoid cysts is crucial to determine the best course of treatment.

Treatment options for epidermal and epidermoid cysts

After confirming the diagnosis of an epidermal or epidermoid cyst, it is important to discuss the different treatment options available with your healthcare provider. Treatment is usually recommended if the cyst is causing discomfort, has become infected, or is causing cosmetic concerns.

Here are the different treatment options available for epidermal and epidermoid cysts:

  • Watchful waiting: In some cases, your healthcare provider may suggest waiting to see if the cyst goes away on its own. This is usually recommended for small cysts that are not causing any discomfort or cosmetic concerns.
  • Incision and drainage: This is a procedure where your healthcare provider will make a small incision in the cyst and drain the contents out. This is usually done for cysts that are infected or causing discomfort.
  • Injection: Your healthcare provider may recommend injecting a steroid medication into the cyst to reduce inflammation and swelling. This is usually done for cysts that are causing discomfort or have become infected.
  • Surgical removal: This is a procedure where your healthcare provider will remove the entire cyst, including the sac lining. This is usually done for cysts that are large, causing discomfort or cosmetic concerns or have become infected repeatedly.

Surgical removal of epidermoid and epidermal cysts is usually done under local anesthesia and can be an outpatient procedure.

Here is a table outlining the pros and cons of the different treatment options:

Treatment option Pros Cons
Watchful waiting Non-invasive Cyst may not go away on its own
Incision and drainage Relieves discomfort, drains infection May not completely remove the cyst, may recur
Injection Reduces inflammation and swelling May not completely remove the cyst, may recur, may cause skin discoloration
Surgical removal Completely removes the cyst, only option for large or recurring cysts Invasive, may leave a scar

It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of each treatment option with your healthcare provider to decide on the best course of treatment for your individual situation.

Complications of untreated cysts

If left untreated, epidermal and epidermoid cysts can lead to various complications. Here are some of the possible complications:

  • Infection: When bacteria enter the cyst, it can lead to infection. An infected cyst can cause pain, redness, swelling, and discharge of pus. In severe cases, the infection can spread to the surrounding tissue and cause cellulitis, an infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissue.
  • Rupture: Cysts can rupture spontaneously or due to trauma. A ruptured cyst can cause pain and inflammation. The contents of the cyst, which are mainly keratin and sebum, can leak into the surrounding tissue and cause a foreign body reaction, leading to more inflammation and the formation of a granuloma.
  • Scar formation: A cyst that is repeatedly inflamed and ruptured can lead to scarring, which can be unsightly and disfiguring. In some cases, the scar tissue can impede movement or function, especially when the cyst is located in a joint or near a nerve.
  • Malignant transformation: Although rare, some types of cysts can undergo malignant transformation, meaning they can turn into cancer. This is more likely to happen with cysts that are located in the genital area or in the head and neck region.
  • Compression: Large cysts can compress nearby structures, such as nerves, blood vessels, or organs. This can cause symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness. In rare cases, the compression can be life-threatening, such as when the cyst is compressing the airway or the brain.
  • Cyst recurrence: Even after a cyst is surgically removed, there is a chance that it can recur if the entire cyst wall is not removed or if the underlying cause of the cyst is not addressed. Recurrent cysts can be more difficult to treat and may require more invasive procedures.

If you have a cyst that is causing discomfort, inflammation, or other symptoms, it is important to see a doctor or a dermatologist. They can evaluate the cyst and determine the best course of treatment to prevent complications.

Prevention of Epidermal and Epidermoid Cysts

Preventing epidermal and epidermoid cysts involves avoiding irritants and making sure your skin stays clean and healthy.

  • Avoid squeezing or attempting to pop cysts. Doing so can lead to inflammation and infection.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals or irritants on your skin, which can cause damage and lead to cyst development.
  • Keep your skin clean and dry, especially in areas prone to sweating or friction.
  • Choose clothing that is breathable and does not cause irritation or rubbing against your skin.
  • Wear protective gloves or clothing when working with strong chemical compounds and avoid prolonged exposure.
  • Use gentle cleansers and moisturizers on your skin and avoid harsh exfoliating scrubs or treatments.
  • If you have a history of cysts, consider regular check-ups with a dermatologist to monitor any changes or growths.

In addition to these preventative measures, it is important to understand the different types of cysts in order to properly identify and address any abnormal growths. Consulting with a healthcare provider or dermatologist can provide helpful guidance and treatment options if you do experience a cyst or abnormal growth.

What is the difference between epidermal and epidermoid cyst?

Q: Are epidermal cyst and epidermoid cyst the same thing?
A: Even though their names sound similar, epidermal cyst and epidermoid cyst are different types of cysts.

Q: How are they different?
A: The difference lies in the formation of the cysts. Epidermoid cysts originate from skin cells and are caused by the epidermis. Epidermal cysts, on the other hand, form from hair follicles or sweat glands.

Q: Can they both be treated?
A: Yes, both types of cysts can be treated by a healthcare provider. However, the treatment approach might be different depending on the type of cyst and its size.

Q: What are the symptoms of these cysts?
A: Both cysts can present as small, painless lumps under the skin. However, epidermoid cysts can also cause redness and inflammation around the area where the cyst is present.

Q: Do these cysts pose any health risks?
A: Usually, both types of cysts are harmless and do not pose any health risks. However, if they become infected or grow larger in size, it is best to seek medical attention.

Thanks for reading!

We hope this article helped you understand the difference between epidermal and epidermoid cyst. Remember to always seek professional medical advice for any cyst or skin-related concerns. Please visit our website again for more health-related articles.