What Are Cysts?

A cyst is a sac-like pocket containing fluid, keratin and substances. Cysts can get inflamed sometimes leading to infection.

What Are The Causes of Cysts?

Cysts can form for various reasons, depending on their type and location in the body. Some common causes include:

  • Blocked ducts or glands: Cysts often develop when ducts or glands in the body become blocked, causing fluid or other substances to accumulate. For example, sebaceous cysts form when oil glands become blocked, leading to the accumulation of sebum.
  • Infection: Infections can lead to the formation of cysts, particularly in areas where bacteria can easily enter the body, such as the skin or reproductive organs. Infected cysts may contain pus and can be painful.
  • Chronic inflammatory conditions: Conditions such as acne, hidradenitis suppurativa, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can increase the risk of developing cysts due to ongoing inflammation and changes in hormone levels.
  • Genetic factors: Some people may be predisposed to developing certain types of cysts due to genetic factors. For example, individuals with a family history of polycystic kidney disease may be more likely to develop kidney cysts.
  • Trauma: Physical trauma or injury to a specific area of the body can sometimes lead to the formation of cysts as part of the healing process.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms of Cysts?

  • Lump or swelling: Cysts often present as a noticeable lump or swelling beneath the skin or in an internal organ. The lump may feel firm or soft, depending on its contents.
  • Pain or tenderness: Depending on the location and size of the cyst, it may cause pain or discomfort. This can range from mild discomfort to severe pain, especially if the cyst becomes infected or inflamed.
  • Redness and inflammation: If a cyst becomes infected, the surrounding skin may appear red, swollen, and inflamed. There may also be warmth to the touch.
  • Fluid-filled sac: Cysts typically contain fluid, pus, or semi-solid material. If the cyst is close to the surface of the skin, it may appear as a visible fluid-filled sac or blister.
  • Changes in skin texture: Cysts located near the skin’s surface may cause changes in the texture of the skin, such as a dimpled or puckered appearance.
  • Pressure or discomfort: Depending on the location of the cyst and its size, it may exert pressure on surrounding tissues or organs, leading to sensations of pressure or discomfort.

What Are The Risk Factors of Cysts?

  • Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those occurring during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, can increase the risk of developing cysts in various parts of the body.
  • Personal or family history: Individuals with a personal or family history of cysts or certain medical conditions associated with cyst formation, such as polycystic kidney disease or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), may have an increased risk of developing cysts.
  • Certain medical conditions: Chronic inflammatory conditions, such as acne, hidradenitis suppurativa, and endometriosis, can increase the risk of developing cysts due to ongoing inflammation and changes in tissue structure.
  • Genetic factors: Some cysts have a genetic component, meaning they may run in families.
  • Obstruction of ducts or glands: Blockage or obstruction of ducts or glands in the body can lead to the formation of cysts.
  • Certain medications or treatments: Some medications, such as certain types of hormone therapy or fertility drugs, may increase the risk of developing cysts in some individuals.
  • Trauma or injury: Physical trauma or injury to a specific area of the body can sometimes lead to the formation of cysts as part of the healing process.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to environmental toxins or chemicals may increase the risk of developing cysts in some cases, although more research is needed to understand the relationship between environmental factors and cyst formation.

How Are Cysts Diagnosed?

  • Medical history: Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, including when they started, how they’ve progressed, and if you have any relevant medical conditions or family history of cysts.
  • Physical examination: During a physical exam, your doctor will examine the area of concern to assess the size, location, and characteristics of the cyst. They may palpate the area to feel for any lumps or swelling and evaluate the skin’s appearance for signs of inflammation or infection.
  • Imaging tests: Depending on the location and characteristics of the cyst, your doctor may order imaging tests to get a better view of the cyst and its surrounding structures. Common imaging tests used to diagnose cysts include ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI.
  • Laboratory tests: If the cyst contains fluid, your doctor may perform laboratory tests on the fluid sample to help determine its composition and identify any signs of infection or other abnormalities. This can help guide treatment decisions and rule out other potential causes of your symptoms.

What Are Possible Treatments For Cysts?

Cysts can often be drained or cut out via excision if they become too painful or inflamed. They can also be treated with a steroid injection when inflamed to calm the area.

Are There Preventative Steps or Measures To Avoid Cysts?

  • Practice good hygiene: Keeping your skin clean and free from excess oil and sweat can help prevent certain types of cysts, such as sebaceous cysts and epidermoid cysts. Wash your skin regularly with a gentle cleanser, and avoid using harsh soaps or skincare products that can irritate the skin.
  • Avoid skin trauma: Trauma or injury to the skin can sometimes lead to the formation of cysts, especially in areas prone to friction or pressure. Take care to avoid activities or habits that may injure your skin, such as picking or squeezing blemishes, wearing tight clothing or accessories, or engaging in rough physical activities without proper protection.
  • Manage underlying medical conditions: If you have a medical condition that predisposes you to cysts, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, or hidradenitis suppurativa, work with your healthcare provider to manage your condition effectively. This may involve medication, lifestyle changes, or other treatments aimed at reducing symptoms and complications.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity and excess body fat can increase the risk of certain types of cysts, such as ovarian cysts and fatty liver cysts. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help reduce this risk and promote overall health.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of water each day can help keep your body hydrated and promote healthy skin and organ function. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day, or more if you’re physically active or live in a hot climate.

What Are The Risks If Cysts Are Left Untreated?

  • Infection: Cysts can become infected, leading to symptoms such as redness, swelling, pain, and pus drainage. Infected cysts can cause complications such as abscess formation, cellulitis (skin infection), or systemic infection if the infection spreads to other parts of the body.
  • Pain and discomfort: Cysts may cause pain or discomfort, especially if they become enlarged or press on surrounding tissues, nerves, or organs. This can interfere with your daily activities and quality of life.
  • Rupture: Some cysts, particularly those filled with fluid or pus, may rupture spontaneously or due to trauma. Ruptured cysts can cause sudden and severe pain, bleeding, and inflammation. In some cases, the contents of the cyst can spread to surrounding tissues, leading to further complications.
  • Cosmetic concerns: Cysts located near the skin’s surface can be unsightly and may cause cosmetic concerns, especially if they become enlarged or inflamed. This can affect your self-esteem and confidence, particularly if the cyst is located on a visible part of the body.

Are There Other Related Conditions To Cysts?

  • Abscesses: Abscesses are collections of pus that can form in various parts of the body as a result of infection. Like cysts, abscesses are often filled with fluid, but they also contain white blood cells, dead tissue, and bacteria. Abscesses can cause pain, swelling, redness, and warmth at the site of infection.
  • Tumors: Tumors are abnormal growths of tissue that can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Some tumors may contain cystic components or appear cystic on imaging tests. However, unlike cysts, tumors are characterized by uncontrolled cell growth and may invade nearby tissues or metastasize to other parts of the body.
  • Dermoid cysts: Dermoid cysts are benign tumors that contain various types of tissue, including skin, hair, and teeth. These cysts typically develop in the ovaries but can also occur in other parts of the body. Dermoid cysts are usually asymptomatic but may cause symptoms if they become large or rupture.
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD): PKD is an inherited disorder characterized by the development of multiple fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys. These cysts can impair kidney function over time, leading to complications such as high blood pressure, kidney stones, and kidney failure.

Key Takeaways About Cysts (Top 3-5 points to remember from everything)

  1. A cyst is a sac-like pocket containing fluid, keratin and substances. Cysts can get inflamed sometimes leading to infection.
  2. Cysts can form for various reasons, depending on their type and location in the body include: blocked ducts or glands, infection, chronic inflammatory conditions, genetic factors, and trauma.
  3. Cysts can often be drained or cut out via excision if they become too painful or inflamed. They can also be treated with a steroid injection when inflamed to calm the area.

Recommended Next Steps

Consult with your healthcare provider for necessary treatment options