Common Skin Lumps, Bumps & Cysts

Know All About Lumps, Bumps & Cysts

There are hundreds of different lumps, bumps, and cysts related to the skin. The majority are harmless and painless. The guide below provides information about several common forms of lumps, bumps, and cysts.


Also called histiocytomas, these skin growths are generally benign and are brown-, red-, or purple-colored. Most are hard lumps but some may be itchy and tender to the touch. Dermatofibromas are mostly found on the arms and legs.

Most dermatofibromas don't need medical treatment unless they interfere with shaving or are irritated by clothing. The most common form of removal is surgical excision or cryotherapy which involves freezing the growth with liquid nitrogen.

Epidermoid Cysts (Sebaceous Cysts)

Epidermoid cysts, commonly called sebaceous cysts, are small, round bumps generally found on the back, face, genitals, neck, and torso. Considered benign skin tumors, they form from clogged hair follicles, which may be related to severe acne or a penetrating injury. These cysts can produce a cheese-like discharge if the skin covering breaks and become red and painful to the touch when infected.

A common treatment is the removal of the discharge and cyst sac, or capsule, to prevent recurrence. Your dermatologist may prescribe antibiotics to treat an underlying skin infection. For sebaceous cysts located in sensitive areas, such as the face, laser surgery is a common treatment.


Folliculitis is an inflammation and/or infection of the hair follicles. Chemical and physical irritation are common causes of the condition. Red pimples at the site of the inflamed follicle are the main symptom. Patients with compromised immune systems, diabetes, or obesity have a higher incidence of folliculitis.

To effectively treat folliculitis, your dermatologist will likely focus on eliminating the cause or trigger along with using prescription medications including antifungal medications, oral antibiotics, and topical antibiotics.


Keratoacanthoma (KA) is a benign and common abnormal growth of hair cells. It's more frequent in elderly patients and patients with extended sun exposure. KA growths form rapidly, are red, and have a dome-shaped perimeter and a cratered center. They're mostly found on the arms, hands, face, and torso.

Treatments generally consist of cryotherapy — freezing the growth with liquid nitrogen — or curettage — surgical removal by cutting out or scraping off the growth. Your dermatologist will determine which treatment method to use.

Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris features small but rough white or red bumps, usually on the upper arms, buttocks, and thighs. These bumps don't itch or hurt but may have an aesthetic impact on a patient. Keratosis pilaris tends to be worse during winter months or when environmental humidity levels are low, causing the skin to dry out.

This skin condition usually doesn't require medical treatment and usually disappears by age 30. Your dermatologist may suggest using intensive moisturizers to help reduce the roughness. More severe cases may require medicated creams with urea or alpha-hydroxy acids.


Lipomas are soft, fatty tissue nodules frequently found on the neck, shoulders, and torso. The nodules are slow-growing and painless unless the growths put pressure on a nearby nerve. Lipomas can develop individually or in multiples and are genetic. They're usually benign and are the most common form of tumors.

Unless a lipoma compresses surrounding nerves and/or tissue, treatment usually isn't necessary. If treatment is needed, your dermatologist may surgically remove the nodule or use steroids to shrink the size.


Similar to lipomas, neurofibromas are soft, fleshy growths under the skin that are generally benign and painless. Some patients may experience occasional pain and should seek medical attention if this occurs.

Neurofibromas are usually only treated if the growth affects a nerve. Most neurofibromas don't recur after removal.

Skin Cysts

Skin cysts are common and appear anywhere on the body. These cysts are closed pockets of tissue filled with either fluid or pus and are benign. Skin cysts are usually smooth to the touch and may feel like a pea under the skin. They can develop for many reasons, including after an infection or around foreign bodies, such as piercings.

Treatment is rarely needed, generally when the skin cyst becomes infected or inflamed. Your dermatologist may drain the cyst or use a cortisone injection to shrink the size of the cyst.

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