What Is a Cyst?
A cyst is a sac-like pocket of tissue that contains fluid,
air, or other substances. Cysts can grow almost anywhere in your body or on
There are many different types of cysts. Most cysts are
benign, or non-cancerous.
Whether a cyst needs treatment depends on a number of
- the type of cyst
- the location of the cyst
- if the cyst is causing pain or discomfort
- whether the cyst is infected
A cyst can appear as a bump on your skin. It may also feel
like a small lump if it is growing just under your skin.
Some cysts grow deep inside your body where you cannot feel
them. However, they may cause other symptoms. For example, ovarian cysts, such
as those that result from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can cause hormonal
problems. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which causes cysts to form in the
kidney, can affect kidney function.
Cysts usually grow slowly and have a smooth surface. They
can be tiny or very large. Most cysts are not painful. They usually do not
cause problems unless they are:
- very large
- impinging on a nerve or blood vessel
- growing in a sensitive area
- affecting the function of an organ
Do Cysts Form?
Cysts form for different reasons. They can be caused by:
- inherited diseases
- chronic inflammation
- blockages in ducts
The exact cause depends on the type of cyst.
There are hundreds of different types of cysts. They can grow almost
anywhere in your body. Some cysts occur as part of another condition, such as PKD
or PCOS. Some of the more common types of cysts include the following:
These are small, benign bumps filled with an oily substance
called sebum. They are also known as epidermoid cysts.
Sebaceous cysts often form within hair follicles. Ruptured
sebaceous glands can also cause cysts. These are the glands that make oil for
your skin and hair.
In rare cases, sebaceous cysts can be caused by an inherited
condition called Gardner’s syndrome.
These benign cysts usually form on your wrist or hand. However,
they can also develop on your feet. The reason they form is not known.
Ganglion cysts tend to occur along a tendon sheath. They are more
common in women than in men.
Ovarian cysts often form when the follicle that normally releases
an egg does not open. This causes fluid to build up and form a cyst. These
cysts occur most often between the onset of puberty and menopause. They are usually
found during pelvic exams.
Ovarian cysts are associated with an increased risk of cancer
when they occur after menopause.
Benign cysts can develop in your breasts when your milk ducts are
blocked. They commonly occur in women in their 30s and 40s. They can cause pain
or tenderness in the affected area.
Chalazia are benign cysts that occur on your eyelids when the oil
gland duct is blocked. These cysts can cause tenderness, light sensitivity, and
painful swelling. If they get too big, they can cause vision problems.
These cysts form near the top of the buttocks. They are usually
filled with skin debris, body oils, hair, and other matter.
Pilonidal cysts occur more often in men than in women. They can
develop when loose hairs become embedded in your skin. According to the Mayo
Clinic, chronic infections in these cysts might increase your risk of a type
of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
to See Your Doctor
Schedule an appointment with your doctor if your cyst becomes
very painful or red. This could be a sign of a rupture or an infection.
A doctor should check your cyst even if it is not causing any
pain or other problems. Abnormal growths can be a sign of cancer. Therefore,
your doctor might want to remove a tissue sample for testing.
In some cases, cysts go away on their own. Putting a warm
compress on a cyst can speed up the healing process by helping it drain.
You should never try to squeeze or pop a cyst on your own. This
can lead to infection.
Common methods of medical treatment for cysts include the
- Your doctor can drain fluids and other matter
from the cyst using a needle.
- Your doctor can give you medications, such as cortisone
injections, to reduce inflammation in the cyst.
- Your doctor can surgically remove the cyst. This
may be done if draining does not work or if you have an internal cyst that is
hard to reach and requires treatment.
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
Benign cysts usually do not cause long-term problems.
Sometimes they even go away on their own.
Cysts can grow back after being drained. If you have a cyst
that keeps returning, you might want to consider having it surgically removed.
Your doctor will discuss treatment if you have cancerous
cysts. The outlook will vary depending on the type of cancer involved.
Most types of cysts cannot be prevented. However, there are
Women prone to ovarian cysts may be able to prevent new
cysts from forming by using hormonal contraceptives.
Cleaning your eyelid near the eyelash line with a gentle
cleanser can help keep the oil ducts from becoming blocked. This may help
You can prevent pilonidal cysts from forming by keeping the
skin in the affected area clean. You can also put powder on your skin to keep
it dry. Getting up every so often instead of sitting for a long time can also
help prevent these cysts.