What is a Cyst?
A cyst is a sac-like structure of membranous tissue filled with substances that could be liquid, semi-solid, or gaseous. They are mostly non-cancerous. However, cancer can sometimes cause the growth of a cyst. They can be formed in almost any part of the body (on the face, back, hand, etc.), but they are not a normal part of any tissue. A cyst has a distinct membrane and a wall that serves as an outer portion.
There are growths on the body that look like cysts but are not. They are called pseudocysts because they are not real cysts. Several factors cause the formation of cysts and pseudocysts. However, the type formed is determined by the cause. The causes include genetics, infections, duct blockage, and chronic inflammation.
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What are the Types of Cysts?
There are several types, and they differ in appearance and size depending on their location and type. Some can occur as part of some health conditions, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). A cyst can result in an abscess if it becomes infected and filled with pus.
- Ganglion Cysts – These are round, fluid-filled lumps of tissue. It is found in the joints of ankles, hands, wrists, and feet. It is usually harmless, painless, and has no cause for concern unless its growth puts pressure on other structures. Its cause is mostly uncertain, but it may occur due to injury, trauma, or overuse. It occurs mostly in women than in men.
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- Pilonidal Cyst – This type forms at the top of the buttocks in the cleft. Its formation usually occurs after puberty if hairs become embedded in the skin. It contains hair, debris, and dirt and is claimed to be caused by several factors, such as hormonal changes, growing hair, and friction from clothes or sitting for too long. A pilonidal cyst can become painful and even infected. When infected, pus and blood may ooze out from it, resulting in a foul odor, it becomes swollen, causes severe pain, etc.
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- Sebaceous Cyst – These are incredibly slow-growing, benign lumps filled with sebum. It can be located on the face, neck, or torso. It is caused when the sebaceous glands are damaged, blocked, or traumatized. The sebaceous gland produces oil for the hair and the skin. It is not life-threatening, but large cysts can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful.
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- Breast Cyst – A cyst in the breast can be referred to as a lump. These breast lumps are mostly non-cancerous because they do not affect the individual’s health. However, some may be a sign of cancer. When fluid accumulates near the breast glands, breast cysts can develop. Women between the ages of 30s and 40s suffer more from this condition. One should constantly monitor the breast to know when changes occur. If there is any change, one should seek advice from a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
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- Perineural Cyst – This is also called the Tarlov cyst. It is found as a fluid-filled sac in the sacral area of an individual’s spine. The cause of this is uncertain, but it may occur from trauma such as injuries. It is rarely symptomatic, causing pain in the buttocks, legs, or lower back. It occurs mostly in women than in men.
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- Ovarian Cysts – They occur as fluid-filled sacs on one or both ovaries. There are different types of ovarian cysts, and they may be pathologic or develop as part of the reproductive cycle. It often develops in women of menstrual age, but it may lead to cancer if it occurs after menopause. They can be either asymptomatic or symptomatic. The symptoms include:
i. Pains when the bowels are in motion.
ii. Pains in the lower back or thighs.
iv. Tender breasts.
v. Painful intercourse.
vi. Pains in the pelvis before and during the menstrual cycle.
Cyst rupture or ovarian torsion is associated with severe symptoms of fever, sharp pelvic pains, dizziness, etc.
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- Epidermoid Cysts – These are small-sized lumps caused when keratin builds up underneath the skin. It may also occur if a hair follicle within the skin has been traumatized. The genetic condition called Garner’s syndrome can cause epidermoid cysts in rare cases. They are non-cancerous and grow slowly. They are mostly located on the face, back, head, neck, and genitals. It appears as a bump with a tan, yellowish, or skin-colored coloration filled with a thick substance. It may become red, swollen, or painful if it has inflammation or infection, but they are generally painless.
- Pilar Cyst – These are round, skin-colored smooth bumps that are painless, firm, and grow slowly. They usually develop on the skin’s surface and are mostly found on the scalp. They are benign and can be caused by protein buildup in a hair follicle.
- Mucous Cyst – A mucous cyst appears as a small pinkish or blueish soft nodule. It is a painless swelling filled with fluid that develops on the lip or mouth if the salivary glands are filled with mucus. It occurs due to a traumatized oral cavity in cases of lip biting, disruption of the salivary gland, piercings, or lack of proper dental hygiene. They are usually short-lived but become permanent if untreated.
- Branchial Cleft Cyst – A branchial cleft cyst is a birth defect caused by the improper development of the tissues on the neck, collarbone, or branchial cleft. It appears as a lump on one or both sides of the neck or below the collarbone. It is mostly harmless but can cause skin irritation or infection or, in a few cases, cancer. A symptom common in both children and adults is swelling and tenderness and an infection in the upper respiratory tract. To avoid infection in the future, healthcare experts advise complete surgical removal.
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- Baker’s Cyst – Also known as a popliteal cyst, a baker’s cyst is a swollen fluid-filled lump that develops at the back of the knee. Baker’s cyst is caused by problems such as arthritis, cartilage injury, or inflammation from repetitive stress that affects the knee joint. Symptoms of Baker’s cyst include pains, cyst rupture, swelling behind the knee, bruises on the knee and calf, restricted motion, tightness, etc. Often, it does not need treatment and resolves on its own. In cases where treatment is needed, physical therapy, fluid draining, and medication are utilized.
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What is a Pseudocyst? What are the types of pseudocysts?
Pseudocysts are false cysts because they have no defined lining as cysts do. They, however, share other characteristics with cysts.
Types of Pseudocysts
- Cystic Acne – This is the most severe kind of acne caused by a combination of bacteria, oil, dry skin cells, and hormonal changes that have clogged the skin pores. It usually occurs in individuals who have oily skin types. It results from the formation of cysts under the skin and appears on the face, neck, chest, arms, and back. Cystic acne is characterized as red or skin-colored, large, pus-filled bumps that are usually painful. It improves with age.
- Folliculitis (ingrown hair follicle) – This is a term used to describe conditions of the skin that result in inflammation in a hair follicle. It is usually infectious, and its formation results from the growth of hair into the skin. Folliculitis occurs in people who practice different methods of hair removal, which include shaving and waxing. It appears as a red, yellow, or white bump under the skin with or without visible central hair. A type of folliculitis is an ingrown hair cyst. Another condition known as pseudofolliculitis (razor bumps) develops when bumps appear close to ingrown hair. This condition is not infectious.
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- Chalazion – Chalazion is a painless small lump caused by an obstructed meibomian gland. It is found on the upper or lower eyelid. Although it is usually painless, it becomes painful, red, and swollen when infected. It may resolve without treatment, but it may lead to vision difficulty if it grows too big.
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How to identify a Cyst?
Generally, cysts are found as bumps or small lumps under the skin. Depending on their size and location, they may not be easily noticed. They differ in size, and they usually grow slowly.
Most of the cysts are painless and are not a cause for concern. They become problematic when infected, large-sized, impinging on a nerve or blood vessel or the function of an organ, developing on a sensitive part of the body. While some are harmless, others, such as the ovarian cyst due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can lead to problems in the functioning of the ovaries and reproductive system.
When Do I Need to See a Doctor For A Cyst?
Some cysts can become infectious, and when they do, they can be very uncomfortable, painful, or inflamed. When these happen, help should be sought from a healthcare expert.
The healthcare expert will examine the cyst. Sometimes, a tissue sample is removed from the cyst for a test to be run on it. When carefully examined, if it is a symptom of cancer, it will be detected and then treated.
How are cysts treated?
The first step to treating or getting rid of a cyst is to avoid popping or squeezing it because such acts can cause infection. A typical home remedy is applying a warm compress to it. This helps drain the fluid in the cyst, hence, hastening the healing process. Sometimes, it will improve on its own over some time, while in other cases, medical care and treatment will be required.
Factors such as the type, location, size, and degree of discomfort of a cyst determine the treatment option for a cyst. When medical care is sought after, the healthcare expert may employ one of the following treatments.
- Draining the fluids and other contents in the cyst using a surgical needle.
- Prescribing medications such as corticosteroid injection to help reduce cyst inflammation.
- Surgically removing the cyst on the conditions that the draining did not work or if there’s difficulty getting to an internal cyst.
Can Cysts and Pseudocysts be prevented?
There are very few cases where a cyst or pseudocyst development can be prevented.
- A case where a cyst can be prevented is in individuals who have the tendency to develop ovarian cysts. The development of new ovarian cysts from forming is by utilizing hormonal contraceptives.
- A pilonidal cyst can be prevented by practicing proper hygiene, which involves cleaning and drying the affected area of the skin. Avoid sitting for too long at a spot.
- The formation of a chalazion can be prevented by avoiding the clogging of the oil ducts on the eyelid. This can be done by properly cleaning the eyelid close to the eyelash line.
In conclusion, cysts and pseudocysts are tissue pockets filled with fluid and other substances and can be on any body part. While most are painless and not a cause for alarm, others can be uncomfortable and painful, especially when infected or ruptured. Avoid cyst popping to prevent infection or inflammation. It is advised to seek medical help so that the cyst is appropriately examined to determine if it is a symptom of cancer.
What Causes Cysts?
Tumors, genetics, defect in cells, trauma (injury), chronic inflammatory conditions, defect in an organ of a developing embryo, parasites, blockage of a duct, etc., may cause cysts.
- Why do Cysts and Pseudocysts form?
Cysts and pseudocysts form due to various reasons. A few of them are listed below:
- Inherited diseases
- Chronic inflammation
- Blockages in the ducts.
- Injury to the blood vessels.
- Poor hygiene.
- What are the signs and symptoms of cysts?
Most of the cysts are asymptomatic. However, the signs and symptoms of cysts widely depend on the type of cyst, location, and severity. A few of them are listed below:
- Lump under the skin
- Pain and pressure
- Discharge from the cyst
- Tenderness is present around the cyst area.