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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.



  • 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


  • Usually does not require treatment

  • Most common removal by surgical excision or cryotherapy (freezing it off with liquid nitrogen)


Epidermoid Cysts (Sebaceous Cysts)


  • 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


  • 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




  • 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


  • Topical antibiotics

  • Oral antibiotics

  • Antifungal medications

  • Eliminating the cause




  • 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


  • Cryotherapy (freezing off the bump with liquid nitrogen

  • Curettage (surgically cutting out or scraping off)


Keratosis Pilaris


  • 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


  • 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




  • 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


  • Usually does not require treatment unless it is compressing on the surrounding tissue

  • Easy to remove via excision




  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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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