An inflamed, red monster is banging on the surface it's embedded in.

Fighting an Inflamed Cyst

Unfortunately, inflammation is my superpower. It is unfortunate because I’m both very good at creating inflammation and, yet, haven’t found a useful purpose for this superpower.

In the last couple of years, my rheumatoid arthritis inflammation has been calmer due to success with my medications. However, I experience other kinds of inflammation that appear with no warning and cause a lot of problems.

A hodgepodge of skin inflammation

For example, I have various types of skin inflammation. Generally, I get red skin and irritation especially on my face and after washing.

But I also was diagnosed a couple of years ago with another autoimmune condition, inverse psoriasis (a rare form of psoriasis), which comes and goes but is generally managed with topical medications.

Then a few weeks ago, I had a flare-up of an inflamed skin cyst that was quite painful and concerning. Believe it or not, my first flare of this same cyst was about 20 years ago!

My first flare-up of an inflamed skin cyst

The first time I had the issue, my doctor at the time thought that a pimple on my skin may have gotten infected. It became painful, red, and then opened up. They treated it with antibiotics and it healed, but ever since then, I could feel a hard cyst under my skin.

Cysts are actually caused by a blockage in a duct. In retrospect, mine was possibly caused or exacerbated in its creation by some form of inflammation.

One of the problems is that the cyst is in my skin under the side of my breast, so when it becomes inflamed it is in a bad spot for clothing and also awkward to treat. Every time I have a mammogram, I have to tell them I have a skin cyst next to my breast because it will show up on the scan.

A recurring inflamed cyst

Two years ago, very soon after I was hospitalized with a skin infection and diagnosed with inverse psoriasis, the cyst inflamed again. It had been periodically appearing over the years, but sometimes would go even 10 years without any trouble.

This time it was so painful that I consulted a plastic surgeon about having it removed. Unfortunately, I had waited too long after the healing, such that it had emptied and they didn’t feel confident in locating it for removal.

My silly hope was that maybe I would never see it again. Even though it had been very inflamed and painful, it had drained and was flat and now difficult to feel in my skin.

But then, of course, it revved up again recently and I had to contend again with strange and painful inflammation.

Was this the final straw?

This time, I was cutting up cauliflower for a Sunday night dinner and felt a growing pain where the cyst was located. Overnight, it grew in size and the discomfort increased, so I called my dermatologist immediately to get an appointment.

After examining the area, he explained the cyst was inflamed, but not infected. He injected cortisone to calm it down, prescribed some prophylactic antibiotic, and said to return if it didn’t improve.

For a few days, the cyst felt like it was improving by decreasing in size and pain. Then over the next weekend, it felt like it was flaring up again. Since we were about to travel and be away for a family visit, I returned to the doctor and got a second shot of cortisone.

Relief immediately after draining

This time, it didn’t feel immediately better but instead grew to a head and opened a few days later to drain. The doctor had warned me this might happen and that I should keep it clean, dress with antibiotic ointment, and bandage until it healed.

As awful as it sounds, the cyst felt immediately better after it drained. The opening was sore for a day, but getting the cyst emptied and taking the pressure off my skin felt so much better.

With diligent care, I avoided infection and it continues to heal. However, this time I have made an appointment right away with the surgeon to see about getting the cyst removed.

Surgery to have the cyst removed

My reasoning for what I hope will be a small, outpatient surgery is that the cyst doesn’t seem to be calming down and actually is getting inflamed more frequently.

It is painful when it inflames and increases my risk of infection, which is more dangerous for me due to my immunosuppressive medications and joint replacements. (I’ve already gone through months of hell years ago having an infected knee out, treated, then replaced again.) Although I’d rather not have surgery, it seems the prudent risk to take since this cyst keeps having recurring inflammation.

I can’t really explain or understand my inflammation. It seems to attack me in random and mysterious ways, and always at bad times. Of course, I’d probably also say there is no good time to be attacked by inflammation.

For me, the bottom line is that I have to be constantly vigilant about my inflammation and make sure I act quickly when I experience it.

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