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 risk factors for a cyst?

The risk factors for a cyst depend on the underlying cause. Genetic conditions, defects in developing organs, infections, tumors, and any obstructions to the flow of fluid or oils or other substances are risk factors for cyst development.

What are cyst symptoms and signs?

The majority of small cysts have no symptoms or signs. However, sometimes the cysts can be felt as a lump or bump in the skin or even in the tissues beneath the skin. Sometimes these cysts are painful. Cysts not associated with the skin but with internal organs may not produce any symptoms if they are small. If the cysts become large and displace or compress other organs or block normal fluid flows in tissues like the liver, pancreas, or other organs, then symptoms related to those organs may develop.

How do physicians diagnose a cyst?

Some cysts are easily palpated by the doctor, especially if the cysts are located in the skin or in organs that are readily palpable, like the thyroid gland. Imaging studies such as ultrasound, X-ray, CAT scans, and MRIs are very useful in finding cysts. In addition, needle biopsies are sometimes used to determine if malignant tissue is associated with a cyst-like structure. In addition, needle biopsy may be used to reduce the size of the cyst.

What is the treatment for a cyst?

The treatment for a cyst depends on the underlying cause of the cyst and whether or not the cyst is causing the patient problems. As stated previously, many cysts are benign and require no treatment. However, large cysts can result in symptoms due to compression of normal tissue and obstruction of ducts. Some of these cysts can be treated by simply aspirating the cyst contents through a needle or catheter, thereby collapsing the cyst. Other cysts require surgical removal, especially if there's any suspicion of malignancy. In general, cysts that cause symptoms are treated by draining them and/or removing them surgically; medical treatment is usually limited to reducing associated symptoms of their underlying cause(s).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/28/2015

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