What is a Cyst?

A cyst is a closed pocket of tissue that can be filled with fluid, air, pus or other material. Cysts can form in any tissue in the body and the majority are noncancerous (benign). Depending on type and location, they be drained or surgically removed.

There are a number of different types cysts. Some are typically found on specific areas of the body. If you have a cyst on your forehead, it is likely an epidermoid cyst, an acne cyst or a pilar cyst.

Epidermoid Cyst

Here are some characteristics of an epidermoid cyst:

  • filled with dead skin cells
  • typically grows slowly
  • typically not painful
  • might have tiny hole in center (punctum)
  • tender if infected
  • drains grayish — and sometimes smelly — material, if infected
  • also called epidermal cyst, epidermal inclusion, epithelial cyst, follicular infundibular cyst, or keratin cyst

Pilar Cyst

These are traits of a pilar cyst:

  • forms from hair follicle
  • round
  • smooth
  • firm
  • filled with cytokeratin
  • does not have tiny hole in center (punctum)
  • most commonly found on scalp
  • also called trichilemmal cyst, isthmus-catagen cyst, or a wen

Acne Cyst

Here are some attributes of an acne cyst:

  • formed on the inner layers of skin
  • soft red bump
  • pus filled
  • painful
  • often felt beneath the skin before seen
  • does not come to a head like a pimple
  • also called cyst acne or cystic acne

The term sebaceous cyst refers to either an epidermoid cyst or a pilar cyst.

Unless your cyst is bothering you, chances are your dermatologist will recommend you leave it alone.

If it is bothering you physically, or if you feel it is uncomfortably conspicuous, suggested treatment might include:

  • Injection. The cyst is injected with steroid medication to decrease redness and swelling.
  • Drainage. An incision is made in the cyst and the contents are drained.
  • Surgery. The entire cyst is removed. There might be stitches.
  • Laser. The cyst is vaporized with a carbon dioxide laser.
  • Medication. If infected, doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics.

If the cyst is acne related, your doctor might also recommend:

There are two primary medical complications with cysts:

  • They can become infected and may form abscesses.
  • If not completely removed by surgery, they may return.

Because at first look both cysts and lipomas can appear quite similar, often one is mistaken for the other.

A lipoma is a benign fatty tumor located just under the skin. They are typically dome-shaped, feel soft and rubbery, and move slightly when you press your finger on them.

Lipomas generally do not get larger than 3 centimeters in length and, in most cases, are not painful.

There are a few differences between a cyst and a lipoma. For example, cysts:

  • have a more defined shape than a lipoma
  • are firmer than a lipoma
  • don’t move like a lipoma
  • can grow larger than 3 centimeters
  • can be painful
  • often leave the skin red and irritated, while lipomas typically don’t

Unless the lipoma is painful or bothering you from a cosmetic perspective, it is often left alone. If the decision is made to get rid of the lipoma, it can typically be removed through an incision that will likely require stitches.

If you discover a cyst on your forehead — or a new growth anywhere on your body — you should have it examined by your doctor.

If you have a cyst on your forehead that has been diagnosed, call your doctor if continues to grow or if it has become red and painful.

If you are bothered by the cyst for cosmetic reasons, your doctor, a dermatologist, or a plastic surgeon should be able to remove it.