Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is Sebaceous Hyperplasia?
This is a disorder of your sebaceous glands, which are the glands in your skin that are microscopic and secrete a waxy, oily substance referred to as sebum. Sebum is what waterproofs and lubricates your hair and skin to help prevent it from drying out and your skin from becoming irritated. These glands are located in abundance on your scalp and face.
In addition, they are found through out your skin except for the soles of your feet and palms of your hands. They are commonly associated with your hair follicles. When a person has this disorder these glands become enlarged. Sebaceous hyperplasia primarily affects adults from middle age to elderly and newborns.
Approximately ten to sixteen percent of the people who have had an organ transplant and are on a semi-permanent use of cyclosporine A have this condition. This is a benign condition. It cannot become cancerous. The spots that primarily show up on your face from this disorder are also referred to as Fordyce’s spots.
Sebaceous Hyperplasia Symptoms
The main symptom of sebaceous hyperplasia is the development of a small yellowish pimple-like growth. It normally appears on your face because there is a higher concentration of your sebaceous glands there. You can also get them on your chest, your genitals, your upper arms, and the areola of your nipples. These lesions are normally soft with a smooth surface that can bleed and become irritated if they are shaved over or scratched.
Other symptoms may include:
- Dryness of the hairs
- Lesions or papules that are between one and five millimeters, mainly on your nose, cheeks, or forehead.
- The lesions or papules can also be cauliflower-shaped.
- The lesions can be multiple or single.
- Although most are yellowish in color they can also be flesh or slightly white in color.
- The lesions are pain-free.
Sebaceous Hyperplasia Causes
The exact cause of developing sebaceous hyperplasia is not known but there are many different trigger factors that could cause you to develop it. One of the trigger factors is that with age your hormone levels decrease which causes many different changes in your body and this disorder is one of the changes.
A decrease in the hormone level androgens is what causes this disorder. When your androgen hormones decrease the cells of your sebaceous glands die off slower. As a result, there is an increase in the number of sebaceous cells in the glands. The enlarged sebaceous glands can grow up to ten times as big as your normal glands.
Other trigger factors may include:
- Exposure to the sun.
- Having a history of contracting sebaceous hyperplasia.
- Having an increase number of basal cells, which are the small round skin cells found at the bottom of the uppermost later of your skin.
- Having an immune system defect may cause this disorder.
- Having a widened sebaceous duct.
- Hereditary as it runs in families.
Sebaceous Hyperplasia Treatment
Because it is a benign condition and is relatively harmless it does not require any type of treatment. Many times sebaceous hyperplasia is treated because it becomes infected or inflamed because of chronic irritation. People also seek treatment for cosmetic reason because it looks undesirable. Sebaceous hyperplasia can come back even after treatment unless it is completely removed.
If the lesions are blemishing, covering a large area on your skin, or are severe some of the treatments that can be use to completely or partially remove the enlarged sebaceous glands are:
Chemical treatments such as, trichloroacetic acid.
The most common one used are Retinoid. This medication can help reduce the size of the lesions by helping to regulate cell growth. You will normally see results in two to six weeks. If Retinoid is used for a long period of time some people will experience dangerous or unpleasant side effects. Unfortunately with this treatment the lesions will often come back with a month after you stop using it.
This is another medication that can be used to treat sebaceous hyperplasia but it can come back after stopping the medication.
To remove the lesions the dermatologist may use:
Cryotherapy – this is done by using liquid nitrogen which will freeze the lesion. After they are frozen they are removed.
Photodynamic therapy – this treatment is done with visible light and five-aminolevulinic acid.
Laser treatment – this treatment is done by using pulsed dye laser, argon, and carbon dioxide. It is often the most expensive treatment and is also less accessible.
Radiosurgery – this is a treatment that is distraction by no blades. This is one of the most effective and invasive treatments to use. With this treatment the scalpel is replaced by using radio waves to make a micro-smooth incision that is bloodless. There is not cutting or pressure, just the use of a programmable instrument that looks like a wand using high-frequency sound. With this treatment you have virtually no risk of having scars because there is minimal damage to the skin that is around the lesion. The only pain a person might feel is from the tiny amount of anesthetic that they use. This treatment is especially useful for treating lesions on your face.
Cautery or burning
Excision – this is cutting out the lesions.