Understanding Skin Cysts on the Back of the Neck

What is a Skin Cyst?

A skin cyst, also known as a sebaceous cyst or epidermoid cyst, is a non-cancerous, closed sac under the skin filled with a soft, cheese-like substance called keratin. These cysts can occur anywhere on the body but are commonly found on the face, neck, and torso. When a skin cyst appears on the back of the neck, it can be particularly bothersome due to the constant movement and pressure in that area.

Causes of Skin Cysts

Skin cysts form when the sebaceous glands, which produce oil for the skin and hair, become blocked or damaged. The following factors can contribute to the development of these cysts:

  1. Trauma or Injury: An injury to the skin can cause the glands to block.
  2. Genetics: Some people are more prone to developing cysts due to hereditary factors.
  3. Acne: Severe acne can lead to the formation of cysts.
  4. Sun Damage: Overexposure to the sun can damage the skin, increasing the likelihood of cyst formation.
  5. Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, especially during puberty, can increase the production of oil, leading to blocked glands.

Symptoms of Skin Cysts

A skin cyst on the back of the neck typically presents the following symptoms:

  • A small, round bump under the skin
  • A visible, smooth lump that moves slightly when pressed
  • Pain or tenderness, especially if the cyst becomes infected or inflamed
  • A white or yellowish center that may occasionally leak keratin


Diagnosing a skin cyst usually involves a physical examination by a healthcare provider. In some cases, the doctor may recommend imaging tests like an ultrasound or a CT scan to rule out other conditions. A biopsy may be performed if there is any suspicion of malignancy.

Treatment Options

Most skin cysts are benign and do not require treatment unless they cause discomfort, become infected, or are aesthetically bothersome. Treatment options include:

  1. Observation: Small, painless cysts can often be left alone and monitored for changes.
  2. Incision and Drainage: A minor surgical procedure where the cyst is cut open and the contents drained. This provides quick relief but does not remove the cyst wall, so recurrence is possible.
  3. Excision: Complete surgical removal of the cyst and its wall to prevent recurrence. This is the most definitive treatment but may leave a scar.
  4. Injection: Corticosteroid injections can reduce inflammation and shrink the cyst.

Home Care and Management

If you have a cyst on the back of your neck, the following home care tips can help manage symptoms and prevent complications:

  • Hygiene: Keep the area clean to avoid infection.
  • Warm Compress: Applying a warm compress can help reduce pain and promote drainage if the cyst is inflamed.
  • Avoid Squeezing: Do not try to squeeze or pop the cyst, as this can lead to infection and scarring.
  • Loose Clothing: Wear loose-fitting clothing to avoid irritation from friction.

When to See a Doctor

Consult a healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:

  • Rapid growth of the cyst
  • Significant pain or tenderness
  • Signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, or pus
  • Recurrence of the cyst after treatment
  • Any changes in the appearance of the cyst

Skin cysts on the back of the neck are generally harmless and can often be managed with simple treatments. However, it’s essential to monitor any changes and seek medical advice if needed. With proper care and treatment, most cysts can be effectively managed without significant complications.

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