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Patient Information Leaflets (PILs)

These Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) are specially written by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD).

Please note:

  1. There are thousands of different skin complaints, therefore, the focus of the British Association of Dermatologists' PILs production is on the most common, rarest or debilitating skin conditions.
  2. The offer to provide details of source materials used to inform the British Association of Dermatologists' PILs is for instances where the advice provided in the PILs does not reflect local practice and therefore evidence supporting said advice needs to be produced. It is not an offer to conduct literature searches or supply bibilographic materials for your own research.

For the latest BAD advice on Covid-19 for patients, please check the News and Media section of the website. Find this here. Our information for healthcare professionals is here.

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Cysts - epidermoid and pilar

By definition, cyst is a closed sac that has two main features:

•       A lining

•       Contents that are liquid or semi-solid

The lining. Differences between the lining of epidermoid and pilar cysts can be seen under the microscope:

•       The lining of an epidermoid cyst looks like the epidermis (the outermost layer of cells in the skin)

•       The lining of a pilar cyst is made up of cells like those found in the roots of hairs

The contents. Both types of cyst contain a cheesy material, looking rather like white toothpaste. This is made of keratin - the material that makes up hair and the outer layer of the skin.

In the past, pilar and epidermoid cysts were wrongly known as ‘sebaceous’ cysts but this term should be used only for a quite different and much less common type of cyst that is filled with a clear oily liquid made by sebaceous (grease) glands.

Epidermoid and pilar cysts are common, not cancerous, and not contagious.

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