Cysts that develop on stretch marks are mostly harmless but can become itchy and unsightly. Fortunately, treatments exist that will alleviate the condition but do not fully cure stretch marks.
Cysts on stretch marks are relatively common since stretch marks constitute damaged skin that is prone to all sorts of demonological issues like cysts, boils, skin irritation, and so on.
Between 50% and 90% of all women who go through pregnancy develop stretch marks.
Stretch marks are a form of scarring that appears after your skin quickly stretches or shrinks. They will appear as discolored, slightly sunken scar-like lines in your skin.
The abrupt change in skin elasticity causes the collagen and elastin, which support our skin, to rupture. As your skin heals, stretch marks may appear.
All people are affected by stretch marks. Rapid weight gain and loss are leading causes of stretch marks.
Bodybuilders and actors who gain or lose weight rapidly are especially at risk of developing stretch marks.
Let’s delve a bit deeper into stretch mark cysts.
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What are the symptoms of stretch marks?
The appearance of stretch marks may vary from person to person.
Differences will vary depending on how long you’ve had the stretch marks, the cause, where they are on your body, and your skin type.
Hormonal changes and genetics can also cause stretch marks. Common variations include:
- Indented streaks or lines on the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks, or other places on the body
- Discolored pink, red, black, blue, or purple streaks
- Bright streaks that fade to a lighter color over time
- Streaks covering large areas of the body
What is a stretch mark cyst?
If you have small, raised, red and itchy areas on your stretch marks, you may have something called polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP).
This was previously known as pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), and you may still see or hear it called PUPPP, PUPPPS, or PUPPS.
Today, people still refer to PEP as a PUPPS rash or a PUPPS pregnancy rash.
As mentioned, stretch mark cysts or PEP won’t harm you or your baby, but the itchiness can be distressing.
Developing stretch mark cysts can make your skin appear red and inflamed.
Cysts are typically characterized as closed pockets of tissue filled with either fluid, pus, or other materials.
They are incredibly common and can occur anywhere on the skin and are usually the result of infection around foreign objects such as earrings or a blockage in the sebaceous glands.
Cysts are unsightly, and although they are mostly harmless, affected people seek medical help to have them removed.
It is not clear exactly why people get cysts, but what is known is that they form when skin cells quickly multiply.
What are the symptoms of polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP)?
PEP often starts in late pregnancy, but it can also happen just after you’ve given birth.
The itching usually starts in your stretch marks or stomach but can also spread to other areas like your breasts, thighs, back, and arms.
You may develop a localized rash that appears as:
- Raised areas, as if you’ve been stung by nettles (wheals).
- Small, red, raised lumps (papules).
- Larger areas of inflamed skin (plaques).
The rash will, at times, be accompanied by small blisters too.
Scratching the blisters will cause them to ooze a little before crusting over. This also creates the risk of infection.
Experts don’t know what causes PEP, but it affects around one in 200 people during pregnancy.
If your skin has had to stretch a lot, you could develop PEP, perhaps because it’s your first pregnancy or you’re expecting twins.
Different kinds of cysts
A yellow or white lump on your skin indicates that you may have a sebaceous cyst.
Sebaceous cysts are usually harmless and don’t hurt, but you should watch for signs of infection.
Sebaceous cysts may dissipate over time, but if left untreated, the cyst could be with you forever.
To try and simplify the definition of a cyst, it is a slow-growing, protein-filled, dome-like, yellow or white lump that can move quickly under the skin.
Many types of cysts develop under certain circumstances.
Unlike epidermoid cysts, which originate from the skin, and pilar cysts, which come from hair follicles, true sebaceous cysts are rare and originate from your sebaceous glands.
Sebaceous cysts can be found on your entire body except for the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.
If you squeeze the cyst, a small dome-shaped projection will appear, and the fluid can be squeezed out.
Sebaceous cysts are usually benign and noncancerous, but it is best to have a medical examination.
Epidermal inclusion cysts are sometimes confused with sebaceous cysts.
It’s important to note that epidermal inclusion cysts do not involve the sebaceous gland.
What is the difference between a cyst and a boil?
Cysts and boils both cause lumps to form under the skin. They are often similar in appearance, but their causes and treatment differ.
A cyst is a small fluid-filled lump that can form in or on a person’s body and is easily confused with a boil due to the similar appearance and symptoms.
According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), there are three types of common skin cysts:
- epidermal cysts
- trichilemmal cysts
Epidermal and trichilemmal cysts look very similar, but Milia mostly occur on a person’s scalp and are smaller.
They also tend to occur more on the face, especially around the eyes.
Bacterial infections are usually responsible for causing boils, which are pus-filled lumps under the skin that form around hair follicles.
Skin cysts and boils can present similarly, but they are different.
According to the AOCD, a person can move an epidermal cyst under their skin.
Skin usually covers the cyst, but it may sometimes have a central pore and can range in size from 0.5 to several centimeters.
If a cyst ruptures or becomes infected, it may become red, swollen, and painful, which resembles a boil.
If a person has a cyst without inflammation, they may not experience any symptoms, but if the cyst does become inflamed, it may become red, swollen, and painful.
A cyst can rupture under sudden pressure, and you may notice a yellow unpleasant-smelling pus ooze from the cyst.
Gardner’s syndrome and Gorlin’s syndrome can cause a person to develop cysts.
These lumps may also be associated with sun damage to a person’s skin, and some medications may also increase the likelihood of a cyst forming.
Cysts can also appear after a person sustains damage to their skin, although the underlying cause is often unclear.
Stretch marks develop as a result of damage to the skin which may increase the likelihood of cysts developing within stretch marks.
Treatment options for Cysts
Cysts can be treated in several ways, depending on their type, location, size, and degree of discomfort.
You may want to get a skin biopsy or an ultrasound or MRI to determine the size and formation of the cyst.
Treatment for a cyst usually involves minor surgery to remove it. A doctor will administer a local anesthetic before making as small an incision as possible to remove the cyst.
Doctors will always try to prevent scarring that may result from the procedure.
Small cysts which do not pose a health risk are best left alone. A warm flannel can help the cyst heal and reduce any inflammation on the skin.
Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to pop a cyst as you run the risk of spreading infection. If you leave an infected cyst under the skin, it may grow back.
During pregnancy, many women have reported success with topical treatments such as anti-stretch oils, lotions, and creams that contain moisturizing ingredients such as vitamin E, rosehip oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, avocado butter, or olive oil.
A 30% to 50% improvement with radiofrequency tissue heating using devices such as Thermage or Accent RF is possible.
This treatment is often combined with fractional resurfacing, which makes tiny perforations in the skin resulting in new collagen formation by the body’s natural healing processes.
Laser therapy is also an option to consider.
If your weight fluctuates considerably, consult a naturopathic doctor or a qualified health professional for guidance in weight management.
To prevent stretch mark cysts, you should try and maintain a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated.
Using moisturizing skin creams helps a great deal to keep your skin healthy.
If you do notice lumps under your skin, it’s best to arrange a medical examination, particularly for women who feel painful lumps in their breast region.
There are hundreds of different types of cysts, and the increase in cancer cases remains a concern.
For your peace of mind, identifying a lump as a cyst and getting sound medical advice on dealing with stretch mark cysts, you should seriously consider consulting with your doctor.