If you have bumps on your face, you're probably assuming that the bumps are acne lesions. In most cases, you would be correct--acne affects at least 40 million and possibly more than 50 million Americans every year, making it the reason for most trips to the dermatologist, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Acne can cause cysts, which indicate deep infection and can be difficult to treat. But some bumps on the face are actually sebaceous cysts, not acne. You may need a dermatologist's help to determine exactly what those bumps are and how to treat them.
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Acne on your face is usually a mixture of lesions: whiteheads, blackheads and pimples, according to the Mayo Clinic. Blackheads and whiteheads look like small round spots embedded in the skin, while pimples--which most often are red and cone-shaped--protrude. If a pimple becomes infected, it will develop a white pus-filled center.
Facial cysts, also known as sebaceous cysts or epidermoid cysts, look like pimples because they're small and round, according to the Mayo Clinic. But that's where the similarities end--these cysts are not acne, although they often occur in people who also have acne. You can move facial cysts around easily with your fingertips, and they're usually white or yellow, while pimples are pink or red. Facial cysts sometimes have a tiny blackhead in their center, which is the blocked pore opening that led to the cyst's development.
In some cases, the lines between facial cysts and acne blur. If you've have acne and you develop cysts, you may have a condition called nodulocystic acne, according to the Academy of Dermatology. In this form of severe acne, nodules of infection and inflammation form beneath the skin. These nodules are not true cysts, but they can be mistaken for cysts and very occasionally develop from cysts, according to the academy. They can be painful and often leave deep scars. If you have nodulocystic acne, you'll need help from a dermatologist to get your skin condition under control.
If you or your dermatologist identify your skin condition as a less serious form of acne, you have multiple treatment options, according to the Academy of Dermatology. You might start your treatment regimen with over-the-counter products containing benzoyl peroxide or sulfur. If those products fail to clear up your pimples, you might need prescription medications, such as oral or topical antibiotics. Often, you'll need to combine different types of products to get results.
Meanwhile, if you have true facial cysts, you may just want to ignore them unless they bother you or mar your appearance, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you decide to have them treated, your physician might elect to inject the cysts with a corticosteroid solution, which can reduce any inflammation. Dermatologists also can use carbon dioxide lasers to vaporize cysts on your face, which minimizes the possibility of scars developing.