What Are Those Small Bumps Around Your Eyes?

They might be relatively unnoticeable, unless you look really closely in the mirror; or they can be highly visible and make you feel self-conscious. What are these small bumps around your eyes? Are they a symptom of a health condition? Is there any way to eliminate them?

Close-up of a woman’s blue eye.

These small bumps are medically known as syringomas; they are benign growths that typically appear on the upper eyelid and in the area between the lower eyelid and the cheek. As with all abnormal skin growths, they are caused by over-multiplication of cells. 

Having syringomas can impact a person’s self-confidence; many consider these bumps a physical flaw and try to find ways to get rid of them. Syringomas are mostly a cosmetic problem that can be easily addressed either by a dermatologist or even at home.  

What, exactly, are syringomas?

An abnormal overgrowth of cells is one of the definitions of cancer. Syringomas, just like skin tags, are of a non-cancerous type of excessive cell proliferation. This means that they do not pose any health risk and can be left alone. The most common explanation for their development is that they’re the result of overactive sweat glands. 

In rare instances, syringomas can also appear on the chest, abdomen, or genitals. They start to develop after puberty or during early adulthood, but they can appear at any age. Females are more prone to developing syringomas, but the condition affects people of both sexes and all races. In terms of prevalence, Caucasian women and people of Japanese descent have been shown to have the greatest risk.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Syringomas are usually found in the following areas:

  • Lower eyelids
  • Upper cheeks
  • Forehead
  • Chest
  • Armpits
  • Abdomen
  • Genitalia

The bumps are about 1 to 3 mm in size, and may be flesh-colored or yellowish. They occur as symmetrical clusters, which means they appear on both sides of the body (left and right lower eyelids, for example). Syringomas are mostly unsightly, and are not itchy or painful. 

What causes syringomas?

Activities that lead to an increase in sweat gland production are highly likely to also cause syringomas. There are also certain health conditions that affect the sweat glands and make a person more prone to syringomas. Below are the most common causes of syringomas:

  • Sun exposure/sun damage
  • Genetics
  • Diabetes
  • Down Syndrome
  • Marfan’s Syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

What are your treatment options?

Because they are benign growths, there is no medical need to treat syringomas. Those who want to get treatment for their syringomas usually choose to do so for cosmetic reasons. Treatment can be done professionally by a doctor, or at home. 

Here are some DIY treatment options:

  • Mild exfoliants in the form of facial washes or creams that contain any of the following chemicals: 
    • glycolic acid 
    • pyruvic acid 
    • mandelic acid
    • lactic acid
    • salicylic acid

*Avoid exfoliators that contain microbeads and irritants that are known to cause skin dryness and damage, such as parabens, sulfates, toluene, and methylisothiazolinone (MIT). 

  • You can create your own exfoliating wash by mixing sugar and olive oil or coconut oil.
  • Over-the-counter creams and ointments recommended by a doctor. 

Professional treatment options include:

  • Prescription medication which is usually administered by a doctor, or which can be done at home. These include topical or oral retinoids and topical atropine. 
  • Chemical peel using trichloroacetic acid. 
  • Dermabrasion, which is an exfoliating procedure that uses a specially designed instrument.
  • Laser removal, which has the lowest risk of scarring. 
  • Cryotherapy or freezing with liquid nitrogen. 
  • Electric cauterization, which involves “burning” the growths.
  • Electrodessication with curettage, which is similar to electric cauterization but also involves scraping of the cauterized growths. 
  • Manual excision, which involves surgically cutting the syringomas. 

Aftercare

Recovery from syringoma removal surgery is fairly quick. Your doctor might recommend a few days’ rest to completely heal if the medical procedure utilized carries some risk of infection and scarring. Full recovery, when the scabs have fallen off by themselves, usually takes about a week. You might experience some mild pain or discomfort, which you can alleviate with over-the-counter medications. Avoid touching the treated area and you must not pick at the scabs. 

Prevention 

Effective prevention of syringomas involves regulation of sweat gland production. Here are some ways to help reduce the appearance of syringomas:

  • Exfoliate regularly.
  • Protect skin from UV rays by wearing sunscreen.
  • Avoid allergens and skin irritants. 
  • Eat a healthy diet; include foods that are rich in skin nutrients, such as vitamins A and E, in the daily diet. 
  • Maintain healthy blood sugar levels to prevent diabetes, which also often causes syringomas. 
  • Use natural astringents and toners, such as apple cider vinegar and lemon juice, to help maintain skin health. 
  • Talk to your doctor about Botox injections if excessive sweating is a chronic problem. 

Takeaway

If your syringomas are bothering you, it is best to consult your doctor about your options for treatment. Even if you choose an at-home treatment method, professional advice from a doctor will help ensure that you don’t cause any damage to your skin and that your treatment will be successful with zero risk of infection and scarring. Once completely removed, syringomas rarely recur. If you opt for professional treatment and you notice signs of infection, visit your doctor immediately.