acne cyst and noduleCysts and nodules are large acne lesions (5mm or more in diameter). They are deep within the skin and are therefore sometimes resistant to topical treatment. Sometimes cysts and nodules can last for weeks or even months if left untreated, and can scar.

If you have a cyst or nodule and you have a big event on the horizon like prom, your wedding, etc., a cortisone shot is a way to quickly reduce swelling and heal the lesion. A cortisone shot can also help reduce scarring.1 Cortisone shots need not be reserved for special occasions. Feel free to make an appointment with your dermatologist or doctor for injections on an as-needed basis.

Cortisone is a natural chemical which is released in our bodies in response to inflammation. The cortisone our body produces is somewhat short acting however, and often does not produce the quick healing that is desired. For this reason, cortisone is sometimes injected directly into an area of inflammation. Cortisone is a corticosteroid, a steroid hormone which is produced in the adrenal gland. Cortisone is often referred to as a "steroid," but should not be confused with "anabolic steroids" which are drugs used for increased strength and muscle size and come with a plethora of harmful side effects.

Cortisone can dramatically reduce inflammation and hasten healing. With cystic acne lesions in particular, healing usually begins immediately.

cortisone shot atrophyExample of atrophyMost notably, a cortisone injection can produce atrophy of the fatty tissue surrounding the injection. The injection area can end up looking sunken or depressed. This atrophy is temporary, but can take several months to return to normal.2

A cortisone shot can be somewhat painful, but your doctor can use a local anesthetic to numb the area before the shot if desired. Since cortisone is naturally produced in the body, the risk of allergy is negligible. Other side effects are rare but may include temporary pain and hypopigmentation (white spot) at the site of injection in dark skinned individuals.

Call your dermatologist or doctor if you would like to make an appointment for an injection. If you have a big event coming up, let the receptionist know the urgency of your matter.

Cortisone shots cannot be used as preventative treatment, so other preventative measures must be taken. Proper topical treatment can prevent cysts and nodules from forming in the first place. If you have an extreme case of acne which is deeply scarring and widespread, you may wish to learn more about Accutane (isotretinoin).

  1. "Cortisone shots". Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 2009 Mar 17. <>
  2. Rockoff, Alan, MD. "Cortizone shot." 2009 Mar 17. <>