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Cysts, lumps and bumps

Sometimes lumps, bumps, cysts and swellings appear under the skin. These are usually harmless, but sometimes need to be checked by a doctor.

The most common cause of skin lumps and bumps include:

Skin cysts

Cysts are non- cancerous, closed pockets of tissue that can be filled with fluid, pus, or other material.

They can appear anywhere and feel like small peas under the surface of the skin. Cysts can develop as a result of infection, clogging of sebaceous glands (oil glands), or around foreign bodies, such as earrings.

What are the symptoms of skin cysts?

Skin cysts usually are:

  • Slow-growing
  • Painless
  • Smooth to the touch when they are rolled under the skin

How are skin cysts treated?

Cysts usually do not cause pain unless they rupture or become infected or inflamed. Some cysts disappear on their own without treatment. Others may need to be drained. This involves piercing the cyst with a sharp object and draining it. Some inflamed cysts can be treated with an injection of cortisone medication to cause it to shrink. Cysts that do not respond to other treatments or reoccur can be removed surgically.

Cherry angioma

A cherry angioma is a smooth, cherry-red bump on the skin that usually appears on the trunk of the body, although they can occur nearly anywhere. The cause of cherry angiomas is not known and the growths usually appear on people over the age of 40.

What are the symptoms of cherry angiomas?

Cherry angiomas are small, bright red growths that are smooth. The size of the growths can vary from the size of a pinhead to about a quarter of an inch in diameter.

How is a cherry angioma treated?

In most cases, cherry angiomas do not require treatment. If they are cosmetically unappealing or subject to bleeding, they may be removed by lasers or electrocautery - the process of burning or destroying tissue by electric current. Removal may cause scarring.


Dermatofibromas are harmless, round, red-brownish growths that are most commonly found on the arms and legs. Dermatofibromas contain scar tissue and feel like hard lumps in the skin.

The cause of dermatofibromas is not known.

What are the symptoms of dermatofibromas?

The symptoms of dermatofibromas include:

  • A red, brown or purple growth that can change colour over time
  • A growth that is as small as a pellet
  • Tenderness, pain and itching; however, growths also can be painless
  • A dimple that appears when the growth is pinched

How is dermatofibromas treated?

In most cases, there is no need to treat dermatofibromas. However, the growths can be removed surgically or can be flattened by being frozen with liquid nitrogen.

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