Cyst Under Armpit

Cysts can occur anywhere on the body but a cyst under armpit is not particularly uncommon. Normally caused by a build-up of fluid, cysts may disappear over time or can be treated.

What is a cyst under armpit?

Occurring underneath the skin, a cyst may appear as a lump. In fact, a cyst is simply a fluid-filled sac which occurs in one specific area. Whilst epidermoid cysts usually occur on the neck, face, chest, genitals or shoulders, Pilar cysts are usually found around hair follicles. Although a cyst under armpit may be an epidermoid cyst, Pilar cysts are more common in this area.

When a cyst under the armpit develops, people normally notice it because it presents as a lump under the skin. Although cysts are filled with fluid, they can appear firm to the touch. Most cysts appear as a round lump and start off very small. Over time, however, the cyst may grow and could end up being a few centimeters in diameter.

As cysts under the armpit are situated just under the skin, the color of the cyst may be visible. Generally, cysts take on a white, cream or yellow appearance and pus may leak from the cyst from time to time.

Although a cyst under the armpit may be slightly painful, the condition does not usually cause a significant amount of pain. If cysts become infected, however, they may become abscesses or boils and patients may experience pain, discomfort, and itching.

In most cases, cysts are harmless and require little or minimal treatment. Individuals may struggle to recognize a cyst, however, so should always obtain medical advice if a lump or bump appears on or under the skin. Whilst a cyst under the armpit is unlikely to warrant intensive medical treatment, a physician should confirm that the lump is caused by a cyst under the armpit and not a more dangerous condition.

What are the symptoms of a cyst under armpit?

Cysts under armpits are usually characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Lump under the skin on the armpit
  • Cream, yellow or white appearance
  • Pus or fluid leaking from the cyst
  • Minor pain or discomfort
  • Increased risk of boils and abscesses

When people develop a cyst under the armpit, they typically notice a painless lump under the skin. Providing a cyst has been confirmed and no further symptoms are present, the individual may be able to wait until the cyst simply disappears.

However, cysts under armpit can increase the risk of abscesses and boils. If the cyst becomes painful or the area surrounding it becomes hot or inflamed, infection may have taken hold and the cyst may develop into either a boil or an abscess. If so, the consistency of the pus leaking from the area may change and may become unpleasant or foul-smelling.

Even if cysts are not painful, people can feel self-conscious about them. If cysts grow to a fairly large size, they may be noticeable to other people. In addition to this, cysts under armpits may catch on clothing or increase friction between the clothes and skin, causing discomfort to the patient.

What causes a cyst under armpit?

Anyone can develop a cyst and the armpit is a common place for them to appear. Common causes of a cyst under armpit include:

  • Genetics
  • History of acne
  • Damage to a hair follicle
  • Damage to a sebaceous gland

Although epidermoid cysts do not have a genetic basis, Pilar cysts can do. If other family members are prone to developing cysts, an individual may have an increased risk of developing a cyst under the armpit or may suffer from repeated cysts.

Alternatively, a history of acne and similar skin problems can increase the chance of a cyst developing. Often, acne is caused by over productive sebaceous glands and this may also play a role in the development of a cyst under the armpit.

In normal circumstances, keratin cells in the skin move to the surface as they begin to die. These cells can then be shed, whilst new ones will replace them.

In some cases, however, the keratin cells move downwards, deeper into the skin, where they cannot be shed. Instead, they form a small sac. As this sac is filled with fluid, usually appearing as a thick paste, a cyst is formed. If sebaceous glands release an excessive amount of oil or sebum, this can fill the cyst, increasing the size of the cyst.

Hair follicles and sebaceous cysts can easily be damaged, particularly if individuals wax, shave or epilate the area. As many people remove hair from under their arms, this can increase the risk of damage occurring and may lead to the development of a cyst under the armpit.

Treating a cyst under armpit

If patients are suffering from a cyst under the armpit, minimal treatment may be required. Individuals may want to place a warm compress over the affected area in order to draw the cyst out and speed up the recovery process but this is often not necessary. In many cases, a cyst under armpit will decrease in size over time, before eventually disappearing.

Alternatively, there are treatments available which can remedy a cyst under the armpit. These can include:

  • Draining the cyst
  • Removing the cyst
  • Using antibiotics to treat an infected cyst

If the cyst grows in size or is particularly uncomfortable, patients may opt to have it drained. This is a fairly simple procedure and simply involves draining fluid from the sac of the cyst. A physician can use a syringe to perform this task and further incisions are not needed. Whilst this can reduce the size of a cyst under the armpit, draining the cyst leaves the sac intact and merely removes the fluid inside it. As a result, the sac could fill with more fluid and the cyst under armpit could return.

Alternatively, cyst removal may be an appropriate form of treatment. In order to complete this, physicians will make an incision in the skin and remove the fluid-filled sac from the armpit. As the sac of the cyst is also removed, this prevents the cyst from returning, although it’s possible that another cyst may form in a similar place in the future.

Whilst some physicians may use a laser to vaporize a cyst, draining or removing it are more conservative treatments and are routinely used. In most instances, patients can have these procedures performed in a physician’s office and do not require a hospital admission.

If a cyst becomes infected, draining or removal may not be necessary. In fact, physicians may be reluctant to perform these procedures whilst the cyst is infected in case the infected material spreads to other areas. Instead, oral antibiotics may be used to treat a boil or abscess which has formed because of an infected cyst under the armpit.

Preventing a cyst under armpit

Whilst it may not always be possible to prevent cysts from occurring, people can reduce the likelihood of developing a cyst under the armpit by modifying their hair removal techniques. When people wax, shave or epilate, it often causes damage to the hair follicles. By reducing the frequency of hair removal or using new techniques which cause less damage, individuals can decrease the risk of a cyst forming.

Hormonal treatments may be used to reduce oil production and prevent cysts but damage to hair follicles is a leading cause of cysts under the armpit. By reducing damage to the hair follicles, many people are able to prevent cysts under the armpit from forming.