What are Cysts and How Can I Treat Them?
A cyst is an enclosed sac of tissue containing fluids, gases, and/or semi-solid materials that occurs anywhere on or inside the body. Some cysts can cause discomfort, pain, and even point to a more serious health concern. However, most cysts are benign, meaning they’re relatively harmless and will go away on their own.
Of course, it’s not always easy to distinguish between a benign cyst and a hazardous one. Additionally, it can be difficult to differentiate a cyst from another type of skin inflammation. For these reasons, it’s important to speak with your doctor or dermatologist. With the proper diagnosis, you can receive the right treatment for your cysts and acquire peace of mind.
What Causes Cysts?
Cysts can form in a number of ways, due to various factors. Some people develop cysts early in life, whether from an inherited disease like Gardner’s syndrome or another birth defect. Clogged pores and other blockages of bodily fluids can result in cysts as well. Cysts are also sometimes caused by infections, stress, and chronic inflammation. The cause of the cyst is closely related to its type and will influence the kind of treatment needed.
Different Types of Cysts
Cysts are classified in two major ways: by their cause and by their location on the body. And because cysts can appear anywhere, there are hundreds of designations. Sorting through these various types of cysts is important for doctors to make a proper diagnosis and prescribe the most effective treatment. It’s also key in determining if you have a benign or cancerous cyst.
Some of the most common cyst types include:
- Epidermoid cysts (keratin-filled bumps on the outer layer of skin)
- Sebaceous cysts (formed when sebaceous glands get blocked and trap sebum and other bodily oils)
- Ingrown hairs (when hair grows downwards and blocks the follicle, often caused by shaving or waxing)
- Cystic acne (an aggressive form of acne)
- Ovarian cysts (cysts within the ovaries, often caused by an unopened or improperly closed follicle that releases an egg)
- Baker’s cysts (occur behind the knee, often related to injury or arthritis)
- Pilar cysts (a type of benign skin cyst that often occurs on or near the scalp. These are flesh-colored and can grow large in size)
- Ganglion cysts (typically appear near the joints of hands and feet, and their cause is unknown)
- Mucous cysts (form when salivary glands get clogged with mucus)
- Breast cysts (cysts that form in the breast glands from excess fluid)
- Chalazia (these occur on the eyelids and can impair vision is they grow too large)
- Pilonidal cysts (cysts near the buttocks, filled with debris, hair, oils, etc.)
Treating Your Cysts
Cysts can be treated in a number of ways, but the type of cyst treatment you’re prescribed will depend on its cause, location, size, and severity.
If a cyst is minor and not causing any pain or discomfort, it will likely disappear without treatment. However, you can speed up the process by applying a warm compress to the cyst for 10-15 minutes a few times a day. This can help drain the cyst gradually and lessen inflammation.
Cysts can also be drained by a medical professional using a sterile needle and syringe, but doctors strongly urge patients to refrain from popping or draining the cyst on their own, as this can lead to further inflammation, infection, and scarring. Properly removing the debris inside the cyst delivers fast relief, but it doesn’t guarantee that the cyst won’t return again.
Medications are also available for treating cysts. Corticosteroid injections are among the most effective of these treatments, greatly reducing inflammation.
Finally, cyst removal surgeries eliminate a cyst once and for all by detaching its tissue wall from your body. Patients might want their cysts removed for a number of reasons, both cosmetic and medical. Your doctor might recommend this option for cysts that are persistent, inside your body, and/or show signs of becoming cancerous.
We can’t predict when a cyst will develop inside our bodies or on our skin. But knowing what to look for will help you take care of your body and seek medical help when needed. At Premier Dermatology, we educate our patients on all matters related to skin health, including cysts and how to treat them. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.