DrSugar is in the house! This week she's answering a reader's question about cysts.
Recently I've been getting reoccurring, painful bumps in my armpits. I talked to my doctor about them, and she said they were most likely cysts, and as long as they go away, then I'm fine. I'm not concerned they're cancer or anything bad, but I'm just wondering if deodorants or antiperspirants can cause cysts? I also occasionally use "Certain Dri" antiperspirant for my excessive sweating, but I've recently stopped because I don't sweat as much anymore now that I've lost some weight. Could these deodorants/antiperspirants be the culprits?
Pitted Against Cysts
Learn DrSugar's answer when you read more.
This is an interesting question and the simple answer is: yes — antiperspirants can cause armpit cysts. According to Medline Plus, cysts on the surface of the skin in the armpit may be caused by shaving or antiperspirants. Apparently deodorants do not cause cysts in the armpit. These types of cysts (most likely epidermoid) are more common in young adolescents just beginning to shave but can occur in anyone. Other risk factors for developing epidermoid cysts include being past puberty, being male, having a history of acne, and experiencing skin injuries.
The Mayo Clinic states that epidermoid cysts are slow-growing small bumps and often painless. They are round and are easy to move around with your fingers. Typically they are white or yellow and range in size from less than a quarter of an inch to as big as two inches. They can occur on nearly any part of your body but are typically found most often on the face, trunk, and neck. Most epidermoid cysts are not harmful, but you should see your doctor if they become painful, grow rapidly, rupture or burst, or occur in a spot that is constantly irritated (which the underarm area may be for some people).
Complications of epidermoid cysts include inflammation, rupture, infection, and discomfort. Very rarely can epidermoid cysts lead to skin cancer. The Mayo Clinic reports that because these cysts so rarely convert to skin cancer, they usually aren't biopsied unless they are solid, immobile, infected, or have other characteristics that represent a more serious problem.
This is why it is so important to visit your physician for consultation when you develop a lump in your armpit, as the lump could represent a whole host of other things including enlarged lymph nodes due to infection (such as HIV and mononucleosis) in the body or cancers like lymphoma or leukemia, lipomas (harmless fatty growths), arm or breast infection, normal breast tissue, and reactions to vaccinations. Medline Plus recommends calling your medical professional any time you have an unexplained armpit lump and not to self-diagnose. Your medical professional will likely be able to determine what it is based on physical examination and history but may refer you to a dermatologist for treatment.
Typically, cysts do not require any treatment and will resolve on their own. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, a cyst that is inflamed, infected, or ruptured can be treated by the following: injections of steroid to the cyst, incision and drainage of the cyst, total excision of the cyst, minimal excision of the cyst, or use of a laser to excise the cyst, which may reduce the amount of scarring. To prevent any scarring or infection, do not try to squeeze or rupture cysts yourself — leave this up to the medical professionals!
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