Lumps, Bumps, and Cysts

There are literally hundreds of different kinds of lumps, bumps and cysts associated with the skin. Fortunately, the vast majority of these are harmless and painless. The chart below provides a guide for some of the most common forms of skin lumps, bumps and cysts.

Dermatofibromas

Characteristics

  • Red, brown or purple growth; generally benign
  • Usually found on arms and legs
  • Feels like a hard lump
  • Can be itchy, tender to the touch and sometimes painful

Treatment

  • Usually does not require treatment
  • Most common removal by surgical excision or cryotherapy (freezing it off with liquid nitrogen)

Epidermoid Cysts (Sebaceous Cysts)

Characteristics

  • Round small bumps, usually white or yellow
  • Forms from blocked oil glands in the skin
  • Most commonly appear on the face, back, neck, trunk and genitals
  • Usually benign; occasionally leads to basal or squamous cell skin cancers
  • If infected, will become red and tender
  • Can produce a thick yellow, cheese-like discharge when squeezed

Treatment

  • Antibiotics might be prescribed if there is an underlying infection
  • Dermatologist removes the discharge and the sac (capsule) that make up the walls of the cyst to prevent recurrence
  • Laser surgery may be used for sensitive areas of the skin, like the face

Folliculitis

Characteristics

  • Red pimples around areas having hair
  • Inflammation of the hair follicles
  • Caused by infection or chemical or physical irritation (e.g., shaving, fabrics)
  • Higher incidence among people with diabetes, the obese or those with compromised immune systems

Treatment

  • Topical antibiotics
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Antifungal medications
  • Eliminating the cause

Keratoacanthoma

Characteristics

  • Red, dome-shaped, thick bumps with craters in the center
  • Abnormal growth of hair cells
  • Triggered by minor skin injury such as a cut or bug bite
  • Ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure is the most common risk factor

Treatment

  • Cryotherapy (freezing off the bump with liquid nitrogen
  • Curettage (surgically cutting out or scraping off)

Keratosis Pilaris

Characteristics

  • Small, rough white or red bumps that neither itch nor hurt
  • Usually worse during winter months or when there is low humidity and the skin gets dry

Treatment

  • Usually does not require treatment
  • In most cases disappears on its own by age 30
  • Intensive moisturizing is the first line of treatment
  • For more difficult cases, use of medicated creams with urea or alpha-hydroxy acids

Lipomas

Characteristics

  • Soft fatty tissue tumors or nodules below the skin's surface
  • Usually slow growing and benign
  • Appear most commonly on the trunk, shoulders and neck
  • May be single or multiple
  • Usually painless unless putting pressure on a nerve

Treatment

  • Usually does not require treatment unless it is compressing on the surrounding tissue
  • Easy to remove via excision

Neurofibromas

Characteristics

  • Soft fleshy growths under the skin
  • Slow growing and generally benign and painless
  • Pain may indicate a need for medical attention
  • May experience an electrical shock at the touch

Treatment

  • Usually does not require treatment, particularly if it does not cause any symptoms
  • If it affects a nerve, it may be removed surgically

Skin Cysts

Characteristics

  • Closed pockets of tissue that can be filled with fluid or pus
  • Can appear anywhere on the skin
  • Smooth to the touch; feels like a pea underneath the surface
  • Slow growing and generally is painless and benign
  • Only needs attention if it becomes infected or inflamed

Treatment

  • Usually does not require treatment; often disappears on its own
  • May need to be drained by a physician
  • Inflamed cysts respond to an injection of cortisone, which causes it to shrivel

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Serving Patients in and around Palm Beach County

Palm Beach Dermatology has been serving patients in and around Palm Beach County for over twenty years, we are a full-service dermatology and dermatological surgery practice with special emphasis on the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. All physicians in our group are Board Certified by The American Board of Dermatology and are Fellows of the American Academy of Dermatology. We invite you to visit us at Palm Beach Dermatology to find out why you can trust our skin care team.

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  • "As a longtime skin cancer patient I’m impressed with Dr. Kelley’s professionalism and follow-ups. She and her staff are all about results and patient satisfaction. Quite different from the other “Mohs Mills”!"
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  • "Dr. Fayne saw my daughter for her acne. He was great with her and explained everything so she could understand. We love the office staff too!"
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  • "I have been seeing Dr. DiBacco going on 10 years. Truly, a great dermatologist. He cares and is very personable. He is detailed with his assessments and treatments. What more could you ask for except a great personality? Oh, and he has that too!"
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  • "Dr. Cohen makes you feel like part of his family. He is very thorough in his exams and keeps you informed during your dermatological office visits and any telephone follow-ups."
    Steven D.