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Lumps, Bumps, and Other Skin Conditions

Do you know what is the largest organ of the human body? 

The answer may be a surprise.  It is the skin!  People commonly see a surgeon to treat various lumps, bumps, and infections of the skin. In this article we will discuss some of the more common skin conditions that surgeons treat.  

What are some common skin conditions treated by surgeons?


Lipomas are benign growths of fat cells that create a lump under the skin.  They can grow on any area of the body including the back, arms, and legs.  For some people, lipomas are bothersome, typically because of unsightliness or because of discomfort that they may cause, depending on their location.  Lipomas are removed in a surgical procedure in which the skin is incised and the entire lump is removed.   

Boils (Abscesses)

A "boil" is a colloquial term for an abscess, which is a collection of pus that presents as a red, tender, swollen lump in the skin. It is caused by bacterial infection.  Abscesses can occur anywhere on the body and can occur as part of a variety of conditions discussed in more detail below, or simply as an isolated occurrence. Good hygiene can prevent some, but not all abscesses.

Often the first step is to treat with antibiotics, but if this does not resolve the symptoms, the abscess should be drained surgically. This is often done in the office.  The surgeon injects the skin with numbing medicine and then use a knife to make an incision in the skin over the abscess.  This allows the pus to drain out.  The incision is left open because otherwise the abscess just recurs, and the wound is packed with gauze and gradually heals over the course of a few days to a few weeks, depending on the size of the wound.  


Cysts are fluid-filled lumps that grow just under the skin. It is not clear why they form.  They can occur anywhere on the body, but the most common locations include the back and the neck.  If they get infected, they become boils, or abscesses.  If they are not infected, they can be removed completely in a surgical procedure.

Pilonidal Cysts

Pilonidal cysts are a particular kind of cyst that forms in the soft tissue over the tailbone.  They typically occur in teenagers or young adults but can affect people throughout life.  Pilonidal cysts are caused by hairs that burrow into the skin, creating tunnels and pockets that are filled with hair.  They can get infected and become boils, or abscesses, which require drainage procedures.  Sometimes the entire area of affected skin on the tailbone can be removed, getting rid of all of the cysts and tunnels.    

Hidradenitis (hi - DRAD - en - EYE - tis)

Hidradenitis is swelling of the glands in the armpits and groins.  Less commonly, they occur on the buttocks and skin folds under the breasts.  Hidradenitis is caused by plugging of the skin glands, which cause them to swell and, in some cases, get infected.  Hidradenitis is treated with a combination of antibiotics, good hygiene, drainage procedures for boils or abscesses, and in some cases, complete removal of the affected skin from the armpits or groins.  

If you or your doctor believe you have any of these conditions, come see Maryland Surgeons for a consultation.


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