John R. Tkach, M.D.
300 North Willson, Suite 203B
Bozeman, MT 59715
(406) 587-5442

Benign Sebaceous Hyperplasia

Patient Information Sheet

It's amazing how many different kinds of little growths can occur on the skin naturally. Benign sebaceous hyperplasia usually occurs as multiple little yellowish-white bumps on the face. In the center is a small hair follicle. They may look like a cross between a pimple and a non-pigmented mole. Some have small dilated blood vessels in them. Basal cell cancer can look like this too.

The tendency to get benign sebaceous hyperplasias is inherited. They are not due to sun exposure.

So what is a benign sebaceous hyperplasia? On the face there are many tiny hair follicles. Areas like your nose and forehead that do not seem to have hairs actually do have tiny hairs. If you look closely in a mirror with the light coming from the side, you can see them as a fuzz, peach fuzz. For some unknown reason, these tiny hairs have disproportionately large oil glands associated with them. Sometimes, the oil glands will grow in a circle around the hair follicle. This over growth of oil glands produces the little bump. That's what benign sebaceous hyperplasia is.

It is not cancerous, and it is very unlikely to turn into cancer. But, sometimes benign sebaceous hyperplasias mimic basal cell cancer. I have excised about 7 benign sabaceous hyperplasias of the face because they looked liked cancer. Now, this happens several times a year to patients I refer to surgeons.

Fortunately, I have found that it is very simple to treat them using electrodesiccation. I take a very small needle electrode about the size of a hair and stick it into the bump. I stick the needle in only very superficially, about as deep as the thickness of a few pieces of paper. Then I apply electric current for about 1-2 seconds. This is called electrodesiccation. The bump bubbles up a little and turns white like cooked egg white. They tend to heal very fast like two to three days. This usually does not even leave a scar.

In my opinion, the reason for treating benign sebaceous hyperplasias is not cosmetic. It is so they won't be confused with cancer at some future date, and then you are having surgery that could have been avoided. Cutting does tend to cause a scar. I treat a few a week. I call it "buzzing" them.

It's not that you must have them treated. You can wait a year or more to be treated. I think it is wise to buzz them while they are small and easy to recognize. It is an elective procedure. Your insurance is likely to deny payment because they see it as a cosmetic problem.

Sometimes it is worth coming in to see me for this just to buy you some peace of mind.

If the benign sebaceous hyperplasia does not go away with treatment, and especially, if a treated spot continues to grow over the next 2 to 4 months, come back and let me check it again to make sure it is not a basal cell skin cancer.

The information provided in these patient information sheets is offered for general informational and educational purposes only; it is not offered as and does not constitute medical advice. In no way are any of the materials presented meant to be a substitute for professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such.

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