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What Is Steatocystoma Multiplex?

By H. Colledge
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Steatocystoma multiplex is a rare condition in which many small cysts filled with sebum appear on the skin. Cysts are hollow lumps, and sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands that are found near hair roots. Steatocystoma multiplex is an inherited disease but cases can also occur where there is no family history of the condition. The cysts usually develop during adolescence. Alternative names for the disorder include sebocystomatosis and epidermal polycystic disease and, in cases where only a single cyst develops, the disease is known as steatocystoma simplex. Although steatocystoma multiplex is not malignant, or cancerous, it can be disfiguring.

People with steatocystoma multiplex often have a parent with the disease. Most often, the distribution of cysts corresponds to those areas of the body which have the greatest numbers of sebaceous glands, such as the skin of the chest, neck and arms. The cysts are thought to arise from abnormal development in those areas where the ducts, or passages, that drain sebaceous glands join on to hair follicles. Cysts are usually skin-colored, or slightly yellow, and less than 1.18 inches (about 3 cm) in diameter, but occasionally a larger one may develop. An individual cyst may be firm or slightly soft to the touch, and a creamy yellow substance is found inside.

In the absence of complications, the cysts do not cause any symptoms, but sometimes steatocystoma multiplex may be complicated by infection, causing a discharge which smells unpleasant. A cyst may burst, become inflamed and form drainage channels, leading to scarring. Even if complications occur, because each growth is a benign cyst, meaning that it is not cancer, the outlook for someone with the disease is very good, and steatocystoma multiplex treatment focuses on reducing any inflammation or scarring which may be associated with the condition. Treatment may involve the use of medications such as antibiotics, and individual cysts may be cut open and drained.

If drug treatment is not successful, surgery may become necessary and a variety of techniques may be used to manage steatocystoma multiplex. Draining cyst contents using a syringe and needle may be beneficial for smaller cysts or those on the face. This method can lower the risk of scar formation, and the cysts often do not recur. Larger cysts may be completely removed by cutting out the cyst wall as well as removing the contents. Laser therapy, where a beam of light energy is used to vaporize tissue, is another method which can successfully destroy cysts.

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Discussion Comments
By Oceana — On Nov 29, 2011

I knew a guy in high school with this condition. I felt bad for him, because he had cysts all over his face, and his classmates were ruthless with their teasing. His cheeks appeared absolutely yellow, and kids thought he might be contagious.

He could not get a date for the prom because he was viewed as hideous, and even the girls who liked his personality were put off by the social stigma. I didn't care about that, so I asked him to the prom myself.

People stared at us in disbelief when we showed up together. They could not believe he had gotten a date, and they could not believe that I agreed to go with him.

We blocked them out and had a great time. We became close friends, and since people saw that I did not catch his condition by associating with him, they were a little less reluctant to approach him.

By lighth0se33 — On Nov 28, 2011

This is a terrible condition for people who love the beach to develop. I used to wear a swimsuit to the ocean all the time, but after I started getting big cysts all over, I had to stop.

At first, I poked all my cysts with a needle and used cotton swabs to press on either side and make the juice come out. I was left with unattractive red spots because of this, and to make matters worse, the cysts returned a bit later.

My dermatologist placed me on a couple of different types of medication, but nothing has worked so far. I guess I will just have to wear winter clothes year round!

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