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Epidermal Cyst

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Epidermal Cyst

(Epidermoid Cyst; Epidermal Inclusion Cyst; Epithelial Cyst; Keratin Cyst)


An epidermal cyst is a lump under the skin. It has soft, yellow matter inside. They often happen on the face, neck, chest, upper back, genitals, or behind the ears.


It may be caused by:

  • Blockage of a hair follicle by skin cells—due to a skin injury
  • Damage to a hair follicle due to acne
Normal Skin Anatomy.

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Risk Factors

Acne and skin injuries raise the risk of this type of cyst.


Problems may be:

  • A small, dome-shaped lump beneath the skin
  • Foul-smelling, cheese-like material that may drain from the cyst
  • Redness or pain on or around the cyst


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. Some people are sent to a skin doctor.


The cyst may go away on its own. It may need to be treated when it causes problems. This can be done with:

  • Surgery to remove the entire cyst
  • Incision and drainage—to remove the cyst contents, though it may return in time

Antibiotics may be given to treat infection.


There is no way to prevent an epidermal cyst.





  • Common benign skin lesions. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/common-benign-skin-lesions. Accessed May 25, 2022.
  • Cutaneous cysts and pseudocysts. DermNet NZ website. Available at: https://dermnetnz.org/topics/cutaneous-cysts-and-pseudocysts. Accessed May 25, 2022.
  • Moreno-Ramírez D, Ruiz-Villaverde R, et al. A. process of care for patients with benign cysts and tumors: Consensus document of the Andalusian Regional Section of the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV). Actas Dermosifiliogr. 2016 ;107(5):391-399.


  • April Scott, NP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.