Cyst Definition and meaning:- It is an abnormal lump or sac like structure, mostly filled with fluid which can be found anywhere on the body.
What is a Cyst?
It is an abnormal pouch like structure or lump that can grow anywhere on the body. It is usually filled with liquid substance, but sometimes a it can also contain a gaseous or semi-solid substance and have an outer layer termed as a capsule.
Cysts can vary in size depending upon the type and location of occurrence. Some cysts are just a few centimeters in diameter while some are so large that they can even cause displacement of certain organs. For instance, an ovarian cyst can cause the ovary to twist resulting in blocked blood supply and severe pain.
The lump can occur at various locations or tissues and is often named after the area where it occurs. For example, a fluid filled growth in the ovary is called an ovarian cyst while the one that occurs in the brain is called a brain cyst.
31 Types of Cyst in Human Body
There are as many as hundred types of cysts that can grow anywhere on the body. Most of the them are benign; however some cysts can become cancerous if left untreated. Let’s look at different types of cysts that are found in the body:
- Breast Cyst is a fluid-filled sac inside the breast. A woman can have a it in one breast or even both. They are usually round or oval in shape and have divergent edges. A breast cyst can vary in size from mere centimeters to up to 2 inches in diameter and often resembles a water-balloon. Click here for detailed information.
- Ganglion Cyst typically affects the joints and tendons. It is a bulge on the wrists or hands that occurs alongside the tendons or joints. It is filled with a clear fluid and looks like a golf ball filled with thick, gummy and clear looking gelatine like material. Check out for more information.
- Dermoid Lump is a sac like growth present since birth and contains fillings like teeth, hair, fluid or extra skin glands that are found in the skin. It can be found in diverse organs or parts of the body like ovaries, spine, nasal canal, brain or the neck and can grow in the womb itself. It is difficult to prevent a dermoid cyst. Click here to get more information.
- Ovarian Cyst is an assembly of fluid or a fluid filled sac which develops in one or both the ovaries of a woman. Any ovarian follicle present in the ovaries which is larger than 2 cm in diameter is termed as an ovarian cyst. They can range comprehensively in size and can be as small as a pearl or as large as an orange. Check out for more information by clicking here.
- Baker’s Cyst is a fluid filled pouch that occurs as a lump at the back side of the knee. It is filled with synovial fluid that is a greasing fluid found inside the knee joint and is mostly found in patients who have an underlying knee condition like osteoarthritis. It is also called a popliteal cyst. Click here to know more.
- Bartholin Cyst is a fluid or mucus filled sac which forms when the duct of the Bartholin gland gets clogged. If the fluid inside the cyst gets infected, you can develop pus formation surrounded by inflamed tissues resulting in Bartholin abscess formation. Click here to get more information.
- Arachnoid Cyst :- It is an accumulation of the cerebrospinal fluid covered by collagen and the arachnoid cells. It develops in between the base of the brain in the cranial base or on the arachnoid membrane.
- Labia Cyst is a fluid-filled closed sac that can occur on either side of the vaginal canal. It is painless in nature and is often caused by physical trauma, such as laceration or surgery. The cyst is usually very small and cannot be seen by the naked eye, but in some rare cases it may grow to the size of an apple.
- Pilonidal Cyst is an atypical growth in the skin and is usually filled with hair and skin debris. It is located at the extreme end of the tail bone and at the top fold of the rears above the sacrum. It usually occurs when a hair strand punctures the skin and gets embedded in it. Click here to check out for more information.
- A Nabothian cyst is a cyst or a mucous filled sac that grows on the surface of the cervix, which is the joining body part between the vagina and the uterus located at the lower end of the uterus, at the top of the vagina. Click here for more information.
- Spermatocele :- A cyst like mass that forms within the epididymis is called Spermatocele. It is filled with deceased sperm cells and fluid and is also called an epididymis cyst. Spermatoceles are benign in nature and do not affect the sexual functioning of a man or his erectile role or reproductive capability. click here for more information on spermatocele.
- Pineal Cyst :- Pineal cysts are the cysts that form in the pineal gland, a small organ in the brain that produces melatonin which is a sleep-regulating hormone. Pineal cysts are very common and are often found in up to 15% of people undergoing CT or MRI brain imaging.
- A Sebaceous cyst is a benign cyst that forms on the skin and contain an oily or semi-liquid material. It often contains fragments of Keratin that is whitish in color. They are mostly seen on the face, neck or torso. It is a slow growing lump under the skin which is mobile and gives out coarse order. Find out more by clicking here.
- Colloid Cyst is a gradually-growing tumor which is typically found near the center of the brain. In case it becomes large, it obstructs cerebrospinal fluid movement, resulting in accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain (hydrocephalus) and raised brain pressure.
- Thyroid Cyst is a fluid-filled nodule in the thyroid glands, resulting from the degeneration of thyroid adenomas. These cysts are generally benign in nature, but they infrequently contain malignant solid components.
- Pancreatic Cyst :- Pancreatic cysts are bags of fluid on or inside the pancreas which is a large organ behind the stomach that harvests hormones and enzymes required for the digestion of food. Most of the pancreatic cysts benign and do not show any signs or symptoms.
- Pilar Cyst which is also known as trichilemmal cysts is a subcutaneous cyst that is found on the scalp. It originates from the hair follicles and is filled with keratin, the protein which is widely found in nails, hair and skin. Pilar cysts are benign in nature and are often inherited from parents. Find out more by clicking here.
- Tarlov Cyst :- Tarlov cysts are fluid-filled sacs that affect the nerve origins of the spine, especially near the base of the spine.
- Conjunctival Cyst is a thin-walled pouch or vesicle that contains fluid. This cyst may develop either under or inside the conjunctiva. It generally does not require treatment and goes away on its own.
- Haemorrhagic Cyst contains blood or starts bleeding is called a Haemorrhagic Cyst. For example, Haemorrhagic ovarian cysts (HOCs) usually result from haemorrhage into a corpus luteum or other functional cyst.
- A maxillary sinus cyst is a benign formation which is a small pouch with a two-layer boundary and is filled with liquid. They are not harmful unless they breed themselves and cause intrusion on the growth of other tissues neighboring them. They can be caused by contaminations or inflammatory reactions.
- Aneurysmal Cyst :- These abrasions are found in bones and other arrangements and contain of neoplastic cells and blood vessels that look like a sponge-like structure.
- Liver Cyst or Hepatic Cyst is a fluid-filled cavity in the liver which usually causes no signs or symptoms. It usually does not require treatment. Sometimes it may become large enough to cause pain or uneasiness in the upper right part of the abdomen.
- Lumbar Synovial Cyst grows in the lumbar spine and may cause symptoms of spinal stenosis is called Lumbar Synovial.
- Epidermoid Cyst :- Epidermoid cysts are also called sebaceous, keratin, or epithelial cysts and are small, hard bumps that develop underneath the skin. These cysts are common and grow very gradually. Epidermoid cysts are often found on the face, head, neck, back, or genitals.
- Cystic Hygroma :- A cystic hygroma which is also known as cystic lymphangioma and macrocystic lymphatic malformation is a congenital multiloculated lymphatic lesion that can grow anywhere, but is classically found in the left subsequent area of the neck and armpits.
- Hydatid Disease :- In Hydatid disease, a small tapeworm forms cysts in the liver or lungs. The tapeworm eggs are spread by interaction with infested dogs, their faeces or anything contaminated with faeces such as soil.
- Chalazion Cyst :- The tiny eyelid glands (meibomian glands) make an emollient that comes out of tiny openings in the edges of the eyelids. Cysts can form if these ducts get blocked due to one or more reasons.
- A dentigerous or follicular cyst is associated with the crown of a non-erupted (or partially erupted) tooth. The cyst cavity is ruled by epithelial cells that grow from the abridged enamel epithelium of the tooth forming organ.
- Periapical Cyst :- Periapical cysts, also known as radicular cysts, are the most common cystic lacerations related to teeth and form as a result of infection of the teeth.
They are generally present as round or pear-shaped, unilocular, semi-transparent lesions in the periapical region and less than 1 cm in size.
- Renal Cyst :- A variety of cysts can develop in the kidneys. Renal cysts contain fluids and may sometimes also contain blood. Some renal lumps are present since birth while the others may be caused by tubular blockages. Patients with kidney vascular diseases may also have these lumps formed by the dilatation of blood vessels.
Size of a Cyst
The size of can range from a few centimeters to up to 50 centimeters in diameter depending upon its type and location of growth. In case of ovaries, sometimes these can become so large that they cause the ovary to twist (torsion), blocking the blood supply and causing severe pain.
Characteristics of a Cyst
Some precise characteristic that make these fluid filled sacs distinct are:
- Round or oval shape with distinct edges
- Gradual growth
- Movable lumps which are generally painless in nature
- Lumps filled with one or more substances like fluid, gas, hair or other debris found in the body
- Redness on getting infected
Symptoms of a Cyst
Most of the small lumps do not show any sign or symptoms. However, the list of symptoms widely depends upon the location of occurrence and type . Some possible symptoms that can be generalized are:
- Pain in the area of occurrence, especially in case of cysts that grow on or inside the skin
- A movable lump
- Increase in size of the lump
- Inflammation of the affected area
Causes of a Cyst
Cysts are common defects that can occur in people of any age group, sex or gender. There are a variety of them (as discussed above) and each of them grows as a result of a specific mechanism or reaction in the body.
Some of them are caused by defects during the embryonic growth whereas the others are caused due to physical trauma or obstructions in the flow of body fluids in various organs.
For example, a sebaceous growth is formed due to blockage in the sebaceous gland that contains oil like fluid.
Other causes are:
- Genetic circumstances
- Viral or Bacterial infections
- Chronic inflammatory diseases
- Parasite infestation
Which Doctor Treats a Cyst?
The first doctor that you will visit, after discovering your lump will most likely be your general physician or family doctor. However, after diagnostic examinations and findings, you may be referred to a specialist based on the location of occurrence. For instance, for an ovarian cyst you may be referred to a gynecologist, for an unwanted growth in the brain, you may be referred to a neurologist, for a growth in the spine; you may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon and so on.
When are the risk factors associated with cysts?
Though it is difficult to list risk factors for each type, there are certain risk factors that come with all types of cysts. They are:
- Serious inflammatory reactions or conditions
- Malignancy (in very rare cases)
Are cysts and fibroid the same thing?
Fibroids and cysts are benign growths that can cause severe symptoms like pain and bleeding while sometimes they can no symptoms at all. Both can range in size from very small to very large and can be single or multiple during the growth stages.
The main difference between a fibroid and a cyst is the location of occurrence and the texture of the growth. Fibroids are usually found in the uterus while cysts can occur anywhere in the body. Also, cysts are filled with a certain type of fluid, depending upon the type of cyst, while fibroids are filled with dense tissues.
Both can be diagnosed during pelvic ultrasounds and require surgery during the later phases when conventional treatment does not yield good results. Also, the cause of ovarian cysts and fibroids are common which is Liver overwork and Estrogen dominance.
What is the difference between a tumor and a cyst?
A cyst is a sac filled with one or more types of fluid and is usually benign in nature. It can form in any part of the body including parts like bones and soft tissues, whereas, a tumor an abnormal collection of tissues or swelling which can form in any part of the body. A tumor can be benign or cancerous in nature.
Can cysts become cancerous?
Cysts are common fluid-filled growth that can form on any part of the body. They are usually non-cancerous in nature and rarely turn cancerous. However, it is very important to ascertain whether your growth is just a cyst or something serious like cancer.
An ultrasound is the easiest way to find out if your lump is a cyst or not. Your doctor may also create an incision in the sac to drain the extra fluid to check the presence of cancer cells.
Are cysts hereditary?
Yes! Some cysts are hereditary.
For instance, polycystic kidney disease is one autosomal recessive and autosomal disease where the genes that cause them have been identified during medical studies. There is also a strain of genes that causes these lumps to grow in only one part of the kidney called the medulla.
A tendency to form pilar and sebaceous cysts also runs in some families and is hereditary. Other cysts like epidermoid cysts, ovarian cysts, pilonidal cysts etc are generally not causes because of genes or family history.
Are cysts contagious?
No. Cysts are not contagious even if the causative agent in a virus or bacteria. The growth is the body’s reaction to foreign body contamination and is filled with one or more kind of substance like fluid.
When to visit a doctor?
If you are facing any of the below symptoms, then it’s time you must rush to a doctor for immediate consultation:
- An extremely painful cyst
- Inflammation or redness
- A rapidly growing lump
- Change in color of the lump
- Sudden rupture
- Any kind of infection
- A lump that is oozing pus or blood
- Sudden onset of high fever
How to prepare yourself for a cyst appointment?
It does not matter whether your first appointment takes place at your general physician’s clinic or a specialist’s clinic. There are certain tips that you should keep in mind and adhere to before you set out for your appointment:
- Make a detailed list of your symptoms including those which are not directly related to the cyst. Do not miss out on any as your symptoms form the basis of the initial diagnosis.
- Jot down a brief note of your medical history and on-going treatment (if any)
- Make a list of medicines and supplements that you are currently taking
- Prepare a list of questions that you may want to ask your doctor about your cyst.
Some of those questions can be:
- What caused it to grow?
- Does the presence of the lump increase my risk of any sort of cancer?
- What kind of tests will I be asked to undergo?
- Does the lump require treatment?
- Are there any points that I have to follow?
- What is the name of my problem?
- Does it increase my list of developing cysts in other parts of the body?
- What if I leave it untreated?
- Is it hereditary in nature?
For the moment, also be ready to answer the following questions that your doctor may ask you:
- When did you first notice the symptoms?
- How long has the lump been there?
- Is it painful?
- If yes, what is the severity of the pain?
- Is it accompanied by fever?
- Have you ever had a problem like this before?
- Does anyone if your family have a i?
- Do you have any underlying medical condition?
- Are you consuming any medication or supplements?
- When did you last have any diagnostic tests?
Diagnosis of a Cyst
Once your doctor is sure that you have a cyst, you will be asked to undergo a series of blood tests and imaging tests that will help your doctor conclude which type of cyst you have and what treatment will you require. Some tests that you may be asked to undergo are:
- Blood tests
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- CAT scan
- Needle biopsy (in case the doctor suspects malignancy)
Treatment of a Cyst
Normally, cysts are left alone and do not require any treatment. However, if they grow larger than expected, severely painful, red and swollen or infected, it may require immediate treatment and medical attention. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove the it completely. There are three types of surgical techniques that are used to remove cysts surgically:
- Conventional Wide Excision
- Minimal Excision
- Punch Biopsy Excision
- Conventional Wide Excision :- This method targets the complete removal of the cyst. A wide excision is made on it without draining it. This procedure is mostly used in case of cysts that are firm and do not drain easily. Though this method ensures that it does not grow again, it leaves a big scar which cannot be hidden easily.
- Minimal Excision :- This procedure involves removal of the cyst along with drainage. It is opted by those who do not wish to have a long scar on their body. However, this method does not ensure the permanent removal of the lump and it can occur anytime again.
- Punch Biopsy Excision :- This procedure is carried out with the help of laser technique. The incision on the cyst is created using laser and it is then drained. After 4-5 weeks, the wall of the cyst is removed through the minimal excision method. This procedure is accompanied by minimal scarring and the chances of its recurrence is also very less. The only drawback of this procedure being- it is very time consuming.
Treatment of Underlying Medical Condition
If the cause of the cyst is an underlying medical condition, then the condition must be treated in order to avoid the growth of the unwanted lumps filled with fluid. For instance, osteoarthritis is responsible for a cyst at the back of the knee while Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS can be the cause of an ovarian cyst.
Simple Drainage of fluid
Your doctor may drain the trapped fluid from the fluid filled lump using a needle called an aspiration needle. This procedure is performed under the supervision of ultrasounds.
Home Remedies for a Cyst
There are plentiful home remedies that are really helpful in getting rid of different kinds of cysts without the use of surgical treatment. They are:
- Ice Compress :- You can make ice packs by packing ice cubes in a clean towel. Apply the pack of 15-20 minutes to bring down swelling and pain. Do not apply ice directly over the affected area as it can result in an ice burn. This is useful for cysts like Pilar Cyst, Baker’s cyst and Pilonidal Cyst.
- Alternate Hot and Cold Compress :- Place a bucket of ice cold water and hot water side by side. Place a towel in both the buckets alternately and place it over the cyst in an alternating fashion for 30-45 seconds each. Continue the hot and cold procedure for 15-20 minutes and repeat 4-5 times a day. Ensure that the water is not very hot or very cold to avoid burning your cyst or the skin. This technique is also very useful for cysts like Pilar Cyst, Baker’s cyst and Pilonidal Cyst.
- Apple Cider Vinegar :- It comes handy in eliminating trapped fluid and shrinking the cyst. Prepare a mix by putting together a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of honey in a glass filled with hand-hot water. Consume the mixture 3-4 times a day before each meal for best results. This is helpful for almost all kinds of cysts.
- Cold Pressed Castor Oil :- Soak a cotton ball in castor oil and dab it on the cyst gently at least 3 times a day. This will help in reducing the size of the cyst. The only thing to remember that the cold pressed oil should be a branded one and not any local oil. This is especially very useful in case of Baker’s cyst.
- Turmeric :- Turmeric is very powerful when it comes to breaking open the cyst and healing it naturally. All you have to do is, boil half a teaspoon of turmeric in one cup of water. Drink the mixture every night before sleeping. You can even consume it during the day. Continue the same remedy for 10-15 days and you will notice changes in the cyst size and shape.
- You can also make a paste of turmeric and mint and apply it directly on the cyst for half an hour after which you can wash the cyst with plain lukewarm water. This remedy is very useful in case of sebaceous cyst and pilonidal cyst.
- Baking Soda :- Prepare a mixture of baking soda, salt and water and apply the paste on the cyst. Baking soda has marvellous pH controlling properties which prevents bacterial growth and helps in keeping bacterial infections at bay.
- Epsom Salt :- You can bathe in a lukewarm Epsom salt bath to get help from pain. It contains magnesium sulphate which helps in providing relief from pain. This home remedy is useful for cysts like pilonidal cysts which are generally painful.
- Tea Tree Oil :- A magical anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial remedy, tea tree oil helps in dealing with all sorts of bacterial and fungal skin infections that can cause the cyst to become infected. You can prepare a mix of tea tree oil and water and apply it directly on the cyst with the help of a cotton ball. It should contain the ratio 9:1. You can also apply few drops of tea tree oil on the cyst directly and cover it. It is very efficient for treating cysts like sebaceous cyst and pilar cyst.
- Fresh Herbs :- Herbs like celery seeds; turmeric, black pepper and cinnamon act as powerful anti-inflammatory natural agents and can help in reducing any kind of inflammation caused by the cyst. Make use of these herbs in your day to day meals as much as possible.
- Cabbage Leaves :- Over the years, cabbage leaves have proved to be a very helpful remedy for treating superficial cysts like dermoid cysts and pilar cysts. It helps in reducing the size of the lump and intensity of pain. All you have to do is, take two clean cabbage leaves and cut them according to the size of your lump. Tie them over the it and leave for 30-45 minutes.
- Chamomile Tea :- It is considered a good remedy for pain, nausea and discomfort associated especially with ovarian cysts. It is also a very mild sedative and eases stressed and contracted muscles. It is a great remedy of irregular and painful menstrual periods.
- Mix two spoons of Chamomile Tea in a cup of hot water. Cover and let dissolve for at least 5 minutes. Strain and add one spoon of honey or brown sugar. Consume at least 2 times a day for best results.
- Ginger Juice :- Ginger prompts menstruation, increases body heat and provides relief from pain and cramps due to its anti-inflammatory properties which makes it an excellent remedy for ovarian cysts.
- Prepare a mix of ginger juice, turmeric and apple juice together and consume the juice once daily until bump disappears. Ginger tea can also be consumed as an alternate remedy.
- Homeopathic Measures :- Homeopathic medicines like Silicia and Hedpar Sulph are used to treat almost all cysts naturally. They cause the cyst to reduce in size and disappear without the need of any medication or surgical technique.
- Vitamin C and D :- Vitamin C and D help in boosting the immune system and allow it to fight deadly bacteria and virus preventing the lumps from deadly infections and rupture. Include citrus fruits like oranges and sweet lime in your daily diet.
- Aloe Vera Gel :- Aloe Vera gel contains super anti-inflammatory properties that haste up the healing process cysts like Ganglion cysts.
- Extract some gel from a fresh Aloe Vera leaf and gently apply the gel on the affected area. Leave it untouched for 15-20 minutes after which rinse the gel with plain tap water. Repeat the procedure 2-3 times a day for best results.
Complications of Cysts
There are several possible complications. Some of them are:
- In case of patients with an infected ruptured lump, the infection can spread to other parts of the body and become dangerous
- Spinal subdural abscess is also a possible complication if the fatty content causes spread of bacterial infection.
- In case of growths present in the nasal passage or mouth, the patient can face difficulty in breathing and speech problems
- Ovarian cysts can cause torsion of the affected ovary, blocking the blood supply and resulting is severe pain.
- In very rare cases, on being left untreated, they can also transform into carcinomas which are malignant in nature.
Checkout these pictures of different kinds of cysts and how they look.
Illustration of a lump in the breast
Top side view of a Ganglion growth
Contents of a dermoid bump
Illustration of an Ovarian Cyst
Baker’s cyst in a patient with Rheumatoid Arthritis
A Bartholin gland lump vs A normal vagina
An Archanoid Cyst
X-ray image of a growth in the Thyroid gland
MRI image of a cyst in the brain
Illustration of a Lumbar Synovial Lump
Laparoscopic view of a hepatic cyst