Types of Cysts

A cyst is a pocket-like area, within tissue, that is not normally there. It can be filled with fluid, blood, tissue, hair, bone, a foreign body, etc. If it is filled with pus, it becomes an abscess.

Cysts can occur anywhere on or in your body. Cysts that are often treated in outpatient clinics are “on” your body. That means they are bumps and lumps you find on the outside of your body, just under the skin. You will see them when you look in the mirror, or feel them when you touch them with clothing or when you sit or lean on something that presses on that spot. Fortunately, many of these are not serious, and some even go away without surgery.

Below are some of the cysts common in children. Most are diagnosed based on the look and feel of the cyst. Sometimes other tests are needed to make a diagnosis.

Dermoid Cyst

A non-cancerous sac that you have at birth but may not see as a bump until later in life.

Signs and Symptoms

Painless bump; often shows up on your face near your eyebrows, on your scalp, on your chest, or over your collarbone; it may contain fluid, pus, a foreign body or other type of body tissue.

Treatment

Surgery to remove the cyst because it will not go away on its own.

Ganglion Cyst

Swelling or bump that is on top of a joint or tendon; you usually find it on your hand but may also find it on your knees or feet.

Signs and Symptoms

Small bump ¼ to 1¼ inches; you find it on your hands, knees, or feet; it comes and goes; most are painful; pain is worse with movement.

Treatment

May disappear on its own, or your doctor may want to treat it by:

  • Fluid aspiration (the doctor uses a needle and syringe to pull some fluid from the cyst) 
  • Surgery to remove the cyst while you are asleep

Lipoma

Soft tissue mass that feels soft and rubbery; slow growing; harmless.

Signs and Symptoms

You can find a lipoma alone or in groups; it is usually less than 2 inches in size; you can find it on your shoulders, neck, stomach, chest, back or other places.

Treatment

You may not need any treatment.

Your doctor may want you to have surgery if:

  • Your lipoma is growing quickly.
  • It is getting very painful.
  • The way it looks really bothers you.
  • It is pressing on a nerve and causing numbness or changes in feelings around the site.

Pilomatrixoma

Calcified cyst that you may find on your head, neck, arms or legs; non-cancerous lesion.

Sign and Symptoms

Small, hard bump under the skin; 1¼ inches or less in size usually on your face, head, neck or arms; painless.

Treatment

Your doctor will probably recommend surgery to remove; pilomatrixomas usually do not regrow after surgery.

Pyogenic Granuloma

Small, red, raised non-cancerous bump or series of bumps on your hands, arms or face; often where you may have had an injury.

Signs and Symptoms

Bumps; you may have some bleeding.

Treatment

May go away without treatment or you may need surgery; some can be treated by freezing.

Sebaceous Cyst

Also called epidermoid or pilar cyst; slow growing; painless; thought to come from a blocked hair follicle; you can find it on your face, neck, chest, stomach or back.

Signs and Symptoms

Round bump on face, neck, chest, stomach or back; yours may be as little as less than 1/16 of an inch or as large as 4 inches in size; varies from painless to very reddened and painful; can have drainage that is a cheesy-like, stinky fluid.

Treatments

If you have pain and swelling, try warm, moist compresses for relief; if your cyst does not go away on its own, your doctor will probably recommend surgery.

Last Updated 05/2020

Reviewed by Richard Falcone Jr., MD, MPH
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