What is a cyst?

A cyst is a noncancerous, sac-like structure filled with fluid
A cyst is a noncancerous, sac-like structure filled with fluid

A cyst is a noncancerous, sac-like structure filled with fluid or gelatinous material that may form on the skin or within the body. Cysts may occur anywhere in the body; most frequently, they develop in the skin, ovaries, breast, or kidneys. Cysts can vary in size from a microscopic dot to a larger one that may displace the organs and tissue.

What are the common locations of cyst?

Common location of cysts include:

  • Skin: Two common types of cysts occur underneath the skin—epidermoid cysts and sebaceous cysts. 
  • Wrists: A minor injury may trigger the development of rubbery or soft swellings known as ganglion cysts, especially at the joints.
  • Knees: A pouch of joint fluid gets collected behind the bend of the knee, known as Baker’s cyst, and may be associated with arthritis or a knee injury.
  • Ovaries: Ovarian follicles, which do not release an egg, may form a cyst on the ovary.
  • Breasts: Most cysts in the breast are noncancerous. They may form due to hormonal changes in the body.
  • Vagina: The Bartholin’s gland lying inside the vaginal canal is the most common site for the cysts to develop. 
  • Cervix: Obstruction in the mucous-producing glands of the cervix leads to the formation of Nabothian cysts.
  • Kidneys: Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disease, wherein multiple cysts form in the kidneys. These cysts gradually cause damage to the kidney structure and may cause renal failure.
  • Liver cysts: The cysts in the liver may be present from birth or may form due to parasitic infections.

Similar cysts may also form in the pancreas, thyroid, along the eyelid, etc.

What are the causes of cysts?

Cysts are a common abnormality affecting people of all ages. There are different types of cysts with a wide variety of causes. Some of the most common causes of cyst formation are as follows:

  • Obstruction to normal secretions of a particular organ (such as sebum glands)
  • Infections (mostly parasitic infections)
  • Tumors
  • Genetic defects
  • Cellular defects
  • Wear and tear injury to the body part
  • Injuries
  • Chronic inflammatory conditions
  • Embryonic development defect

What are the different types of cysts?

There are a hundred types of cysts that can originate in the body. Some of the most familiar cysts are as follows:

  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS: Multiple cysts form in the ovaries
  • Polycystic kidney disease: Genetically inherited multiple cysts form in the kidney
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Epidermal inclusion cyst: Small noncancerous cyst of the skin
  • Baker cysts: Cysts behind the knee
  • Bartholin cysts: Cysts that occur in the small glands that lubricate the vagina
  • Pilonidal cysts: Cysts formed on the skin near the cleft of the buttocks
  • Ganglion cysts: Cysts affecting the joints and tendons mostly of the wrists
  • Chalazion: Cysts of the glands within the eyelid
  • Cysts within the thyroid gland
  • Dermoid cyst: Cysts are noncancerous and consist of the skin epidermis, hair follicles, and sebaceous gland

How to treat cysts?

Treatment depends on the types of cysts, its location, and symptoms. Depending on the location, the treatment includes:

  • Skin: Large or inflamed cysts present in the skin requires draining. The capsule (covering of the cyst) should be removed to prevent a recurrence.
  • Wrists: Painful cysts require the application of ice and treatment with pain relievers.
  • Knee: Because Baker’s cyst is associated with arthritis, treatment should be directed at arthritis.
  • Ovaries: The cysts of ovaries may go away on their own after three to four months. Hormonal therapy may be initiated for some cases. If the cysts are huge, they may need surgical removal.
  • Breasts: The doctor may puncture the fluid-filled cyst to suction the fluid meant for diagnosis.
  • Vagina: Warm and wet compress along with pain relievers may help in the healing of vaginal cysts.
  • Kidney: Cysts that may cause symptoms need to be drained or removed laparoscopically.


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