Steatocystoma Multiplex


Also known as …  sebocystomastosis 

Steatocystoma multiplex is a genetic condition. It leads to the development of multiple lumps within the skin called sebaceous cysts.

Within the skin, the role of the sebaceous glands is to produce sebum which acts as a lubricant. Sebaceous cysts are small sacs with sebaceous gland lobules in their walls.

The cause of steatocystoma multiplex is genetic. It is thought to be a failure of the sebaceous glands to connect to the surface of the skin.

The gene implicated is called KRT17. This gene is involved in the production of keratin 17, a protein in sebaceous glands.

This gene is inherited in autosomal dominant fashion, which means that only one parent needs to have the gene for the offspring to inherit it. Sometimes, there is no obvious family history in patients with steatocystoma multiplex. It may occur in association with other
genetic syndromes like eruptive vellus hair cysts and pachyonychia congenita.

Steatocystoma multiplex appears as multiple papules and nodules (bumps) in the skin. They
are smooth and compressible. The colour varies between skin-coloured and yellowish. Their
size varies from a few millimetres to a few centimetres. They often affect the chest and upper
arms and legs, but can appear on toes, fingers, and face.

They often appear around puberty.

 Figure 1. Image reproduced with permission of Dr Deshan Sebaratnam
 Figure 2. Image reproduced with permission of Dr Deshan Sebaratnam

They are usually asymptomatic (they do not cause any problems). They can become inflamed and heal with scarring.

The diagnosis is usually made by a dermatologist, often through punch biopsy.

Due to the number of cysts, the condition is difficult to treat by excision (cutting them out).

Retinoids may reduce the size of the current cysts and reduce the rate of new ones forming. Sometimes antibiotics can be used to reduce inflammation.

Alternative methods include ablative lasers to destroy the cysts.

Further information about steatocystoma multiplex



This information has been written by Dr Joshua Farrell and Dr Deshan Sebaratnam


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