Infected Epidermoid Cyst (Antibiotic Treatment)

You have an epidermoid cyst. This is a small, painless lump under your skin. An epidermoid cyst is often called an epidermal cyst, an epidermal inclusion cyst, or incorrectly, a sebaceous cyst. Epidermoid cysts form slowly under the skin. They can be found on most parts of the body. But they are most often found on areas with more hair such as the scalp, face, upper back, and genitals.

Here are some general facts about these cysts:

  • A cyst is a sac filled with material that is often cheesy, fatty, oily, or stringy. The material inside can be thick. Or it can be a liquid.

  • The area around the cyst may smell bad. If the cyst breaks open, the material inside it often smells bad as well.

  • You can usually move the cyst slightly if you try.

  • The cyst can be smaller than a pea or as large as a few inches.

  • The cyst is usually not painful, unless it becomes inflamed or infected.

Your cyst became infected and your healthcare provider wants to treat it with antibiotics. You will likely take the antibiotics by mouth or apply it as a cream, or both. If the antibiotics don’t clear up the infection, the cyst will need to be drained by making a small cut (incision). Local anesthesia will be used to numb the area before the incision and drainage.

Home care

  • Resist the temptation to squeeze or pop the cyst, stick a needle in it, or cut it open. This often leads to a worsening infection and scarring.

  • If antibiotic pills were prescribed, take them exactly as directed. Finish the antibiotic prescribed, even though you may feel better after the first few days.

  • Soak the affected area in hot water or apply a hot pack (a thin, clean towel soaked in hot water) for 20 minutes at a time. Do this 3 to 4 times a day.

  • If your healthcare provider recommended it, apply antibiotic cream or ointment 2 to 3 times a day.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another medicine was given. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

Prevention

Once this infection has healed, reduce the risk of future infections by:

  • Keeping the cyst area clean by bathing or showering daily

  • Avoiding tight-fitting clothing in the cyst area

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If a gauze packing was put in your wound, it should be removed in a few days as advised by your healthcare provider. Check your wound every day for the signs listed below.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pus coming from the cyst

  • Increasing redness around the wound

  • Increasing local pain or swelling

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your provider

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