Cysts

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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What are the different types of cysts?

There are hundreds of different types of cysts. Cysts can occur almost anywhere in the body (for example, on the face, scalp or back, behind the knee, arm, groin, and within organs like the liver, ovaries, kidneys, or brain). The majority of cysts are benign, but a few may contain malignant cells. The following lists some of the cyst types that may be found in the body:

  • Epidermoid (sebaceous) cyst: usually benign swelling in the skin arising in the sebaceous gland, typically filled with yellowish sebum. These are usually easily seen as they lead to a swelling of the skin. If they become large enough, they can be painful and unsightly.
  • Breast cyst: a fluid-filled sac within the breast. These should always be evaluated to assure that they are a benign cyst and not another growth.
  • Ganglion or synovial cyst: a non-neoplastic soft-tissue collection that may occur in any joint
  • Dermoid cyst: an abnormal growth containing epidermis, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands, derived from residual embryonic cells
  • Ovarian cyst: an accumulation of fluid within or on the surface of an ovary; also termed adnexal cysts
  • PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome): enlarged ovaries due to an endocrine problem that contain a number of fluid-filled cysts (follicles)
  • Baker cyst: a benign swelling of the membranous synovial bursa behind in the knee; also known as a popliteal cyst
  • Bartholin cyst: formed when a Bartholin gland (at the opening of the vagina) is blocked. A Bartholin cyst can be very painful.
  • Arachnoid cyst: a collection of cerebrospinal fluid covered by arachnoid cells and collagen that develops between the surface of the brain in the cranial base or on the arachnoid membrane
  • Epididymal cyst: extratesticular spherical cysts in the head of the epididymis
  • Labial cyst: any fluid-filled cyst in the labia
  • Pilonidal cyst: a cyst that contains hair and skin debris near or on the cleft of the buttocks; also known as jeep driver's disease
  • Nabothian cyst: a mucous-filled cyst on the surface of the cervix
  • Pineal cyst: a fluid-filled body in the pineal gland (of the brain)
  • Thyroglossal cyst: a fibrous cyst that forms from a persistent thyroglossal duct
  • Synovial cyst: also known as a ganglion cyst, is a soft-tissue lump that may occur in any joint
  • Branchial cleft cyst: a cyst composed of epithelial cells that arise on the lateral part of the neck due to congenital failure of obliteration of the second branchial cleft
  • Choroid plexus cyst: small cysts composed of cerebrospinal fluid trapped by spongy brain cells
  • Hydatid cyst: Echinococcus spp. tapeworm (larval stage) surrounded by epithelial cells in an organ
  • Corpus luteum cyst: a type of ovarian cyst that may persist after an egg has been released from a follicle
  • Colloid cyst: in the brain, a cyst containing gelatinous material
  • Mucous cyst: a thin sac containing clear fluid that may be found on the lips, mouth, and occasionally in other areas of the body
  • Pancreatic cyst: sac-like pockets of fluid within the pancreas. Technically, they aren't cysts because they are lined with scar or inflammatory tissue and therefore they are usually referred to as pseudocysts.
  • Testicular cysts: fluid-filled cysts in the testicles
  • Thyroid cysts: Also called a thyroid nodules, they may be fluid filled or contain some solid components; most are benign but a few may contain malignant components.
  • Liver or hepatic cysts: thin-walled cysts that contain fluid. The majority are benign.
  • Kidney or renal cysts: walled-off fluid-filled areas within the kidney. Some are congenital (polycystic disease).
  • Sinus cysts: abnormal tissue growth, usually in the maxillary sinuses, filled with liquid, air, or semisolid material
  • Choroid plexus cysts; small pinched-off blebs that are formed when the brain is developing the choroid plexus. They contain cerebrospinal fluid.
  • Lumbar synovial cyst: a cyst in the lumbar spine that may cause symptoms of spinal stenosis
  • Pilar cyst: the common cyst that forms from a hair follicle
  • Tarlov cyst: fluid-filled sacs that form on the base of the spine
  • Anechoic cyst: any cyst that absorbs sound waves produced by an ultrasound
  • Perianal or pilonidal cyst: a cyst usually containing skin debris usually located near the tailbone
  • Hemorrhagic cyst: a cyst that contains blood or has internal bleeding
  • Arachnoid cyst: cyst containing cerebrospinal fluid that may develop between brain the arachnoid membrane
  • Maxillary cyst: cysts located in the maxillary sinus area
  • Conjunctival cysts: fluid-filled on or under the conjunctiva of the eyes
  • Pericardial cysts: uncommon benign congenital abnormality in the medial mediastinum containing clear fluid

Some lesions are termed cysts but often are more accurately named in the medical literature with a different term. For example:

  • Aneurysmal cyst: These lesions are found in bones and other structures and consist of neoplastic cells and blood vessels that resemble a sponge-like structure; they are neither cysts nor aneurysms, but the term is still used.
  • Acne cyst: aggregations of inflamed and clogged skin oil ducts. Many are not really cysts but are abscesses.
  • Boils: deep skin abscesses that are sometimes mistakenly termed cysts

Readers should note that many cysts types are not listed above. The purpose of this article is to give the reader an introduction to the hundreds of types of cysts and is not meant to be all-inclusive.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/19/2016

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