There is a wide range of skin conditions that cause lumps, bumps, and cysts — a general term that typically refers to warts, skin tags, vascular birthmarks, fat deposits, and other types of skin growths — to appear either on the surface of the skin or just under the skin. While we recommend that patients consult our dermatology clinic at first sight of any new skin development, most skin lesions and growths develop over time and are harmless.
The following comprises a selection of the most common lumps, bumps, and cysts that patients develop over time. Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery offers a complete range of clinical skin care and skin condition treatments, each of which comprises an individual-specific treatment plan created to accommodate each patient’s unique skin health requirements. Contact our office today to schedule a dermatologist appointment.
Often considered a variant of normal skin, keratosis pilaris is a common, harmless skin condition that causes dry, rough patches and tiny bumps to appear on the surface of the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks. The bumps are typically not painful, nor do they itch. These sandpaper-like bumps are a result of built-up keratin — a hard protein that protects the skin from infection — that forms a plug and blocks the openings of hair follicles.
Cases of severe keratosis pilaris occur during seasonal changes, in which low humidity levels cause the skin to become dry. The condition usually disappears by age 30. Keratosis pilaris treatment comprises medicated creams containing chemical exfoliants — such as alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, and urea — to loosen and remove dead skin cells and creams derived from vitamin A — topical retinoids — which promote cell turnover.
Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin condition that results from a viral infection of the skin and causes round, firm, and painless bumps — ranging in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser — to appear on the skin’s surface. Molluscum contagiosum can spread to surrounding skin if scratched or itched and can be transmitted through person-to-person contact or contact with infected objects. The infection is most common in children but can affect adults as well.
Signs and symptoms of molluscum contagiosum include bumps on the skin that usually appear on the face, neck, armpits, arms, and tops of the hands in children, or on the genitals, lower abdomen, and inner thighs in adults if sexually transmitted. The condition generally gets better in six months to a year, but symptoms and signs can develop for up to 5 years. Molluscum contagiosum treatment options include scraping, cryotherapy, and cantharidin.
Similar to a cyst in appearance, a lipoma is a slow-growing lump comprised of fat cells that are typically situated in the subcutaneous skin layer, located between the skin and the underlying layer of muscle. Most lipomas are small — usually less than 2 inches in diameter, but may grow in size — and feel soft or doughy in texture, moving readily with slight pressure. Patients typically develop lipomas at middle age in the neck, shoulders, back, abdomen, and thighs.
A lipoma usually isn’t tender, but may cause pain if it grows and presses on nearby nerves or contains numerous blood vessels. The exact cause of lipomas isn’t fully understood, but genetic factors likely play a role in their development. A physical exam, biopsy, and X-ray may be performed to diagnose a lipoma. If the lump is bothersome, painful, or growing, lipoma removal may be recommended either through dermatology surgery or a liposuction procedure.
Folliculitis is a common skin condition in which hair follicles become inflamed. The primary causes of folliculitis are fungal infections and bacterial infections, but other causes include viruses, fungi, and inflammation from ingrown hairs. Signs and symptoms include clusters of small red bumps or whitehead pimples that develop around hair follicles; pus-filled blisters that break open and become crusty; a large, swollen mass; and skin that is painful, itchy, or tender.
Patients may be diagnosed with superficial folliculitis — such as bacterial folliculitis, pseudomonas folliculitis, pseudofolliculitis barbae, and pityrosporum folliculitis — or deep folliculitis — such as sycosis barbae, gram-negative folliculitis, boils and carbuncles, and eosinophilic folliculitis. Folliculitis treatment includes minor surgery, laser hair removal, and medications, such as creams or pills to control infection, fight fungal infections, and reduce inflammation.
Warts are benign (non-cancerous) skin growths that result from exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are five types of warts — common warts, flat warts, plantar warts, filiform warts, and water warts (molluscum contagiosum) — and are characterized as skin-colored or gray-colored, hardened, raised, and calloused areas of skin. Warts may be spread either through direct contact with a wart or through exposure to an infected surface.
In many cases, warts go away without treatment within 1–2 years, but new warts may develop on other areas of the skin. For patients seeking professional wart treatment, a dermatologist may recommend several different approaches — such as freezing (cryotherapy), salicylic acid, trichloroacetic acid, minor surgery, or pulsed-dye laser treatments — to destroy the wart and stimulate the immune system to combat the virus.
An epidermoid cyst is a small, benign bump that develops beneath the skin, typically on the face, neck, and trunk. Signs and symptoms include a small, round bump under the skin, a tiny blackhead plugging the cyst’s opening, yellow cyst discharge, and (if inflamed or infected) redness, swelling, and tenderness to the area. Anyone can develop these cysts, but those that are past puberty, with certain genetic disorders, and with skin injuries are more susceptible.
Commonly mistaken for sebaceous cysts, epidermoid cysts can also result from damage to hair follicles or the epidermis. These slow-growing bumps are typically painless, but epidermoid cyst removal may be necessary if the growth becomes painful, ruptured, or infected. Treatment for epidermoid cysts may include injections to reduce swelling and inflammation, incisions and drainage to squeeze out the cyst’s contents, and minor surgery to completely remove the cyst.