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Overview

Masses that are located under the skin of the eyebrows may be caused by various medical issues.

These can include:

  • Skin cysts.
  • Sebaceous cysts.
  • Folliculitis.
  • Cellulitis.
  • Lipomas.
  • Benign skin cancer.
  • Malignant skin cancer.

Skin cysts

These are masses that can appear anywhere on the body and are characterized as areas of tissue under the skin that can be filled with other material such as sebum. The bumps are smooth and painless and develop gradually over a period of time. 

Skin cysts are managed by applying a warm compress over the affected area to attempt to drain the mass. If this is ineffective then it may have to be drained or treated with topically applied antibiotic lotions or creams.

Sebaceous cysts

The term sebaceous cyst is actually a misnomer as these lumps don't develop as a result of built-up sebum under the skin and do not originate from the sebaceous glands.

The correct terms for sebaceous cysts are epidermoid or pilar cysts and they both are masses under the skin that contain keratin and originate from the epidermis and hair follicles, respectively.

These cysts are often painful to touch and a dark area on the surface of the skin is visible. These lumps are managed with topically applied antibiotics and surgically draining or removing the cyst. The discharge from these masses is usually thick and cheesy-like.

Folliculitis

Eyebrow masses can be caused by inflammation of the hair follicles as a result of an infection or chemical reaction. The patient will complain of a mass that is red, swollen, and painful.

The treatment of folliculitis will depend on the cause of the condition and may include the use of antibiotics and antifungals. Other important factors include good hygiene and reducing the risk of chemical reactions by decreasing the use of make-up, for example.

Cellulitis

Inflammation of the soft tissue underlying the skin may result in cellulitis and this can occur as a result of a superficial infection that has reached the underlying tissue.

The symptoms may include a red and swollen mass that is very tender to touch. The mass may also complicate and result in an abscess where a pocket of pus develops under the skin.

In the case of cellulitis, this can be managed with topical or oral antibiotics. If an abscess forms, this will have to be drained and the mass cleaned out.

Lipomas

The accumulation of fat cells under the skin can result in the formation of soft, semi-solid masses that are completely benign. These are smooth to touch and not painful in most situations.

Lipomas are usually left alone but if the patient complains that the mass is causing pain, is growing, or is causing aesthetic or cosmetic issues, then the lump will be surgically removed.

Benign skin cancers

A lump or area of skin that is painful and doesn't heal, becomes ulcerated, or bleeds should be investigated further. Benign skin cancers will cause more localized than generalized issues and may also present as irregularly shaped, multi-coloured masses that may also be itchy.

If a benign skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma is confirmed, the mass will be surgically removed.

Malignant skin cancer

Melanomas are malignant skin cancers that can cause lumps over the eyebrows. The mass may present as an existing or new mole that changes in size and appearance and may also be irregularly shaped, multi-coloured with satellite lesions around it, can bleed easily, and may be itchy.

If a melanoma is confirmed then the patient will have the mass removed and be investigated further for any possible spread of the cancer to other areas of the body.

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