Cysts are abnormal tissue growths that are filled with air, liquid or other material and can develop under the skin or in the bone. They come in many varieties, distinguished by their color, location on the body, cause and symptoms. There are hundreds of types of cysts. The most common include skin cysts such as sebaceous cysts and cherry angiomas, ovarian cysts, chalazions and ganglion cysts.
Skin cysts are the most common and most innocuous types of cysts. They do not cause cancer and can form anywhere on the skin or under its surface. These cysts can be drained, although they sometimes go away without any treatment.
Cherry angiomas form on top of the skin and are red and smooth. This type of cyst is more common in people who are at least 40 years old. Although they are harmless, cherry angiomas can be removed for aesthetic reasons.
Sebaceous cysts develop under the skin and contain an oily substance. Hair follicles are a prime spot for these inflammations. As with many types of cysts, people who have sebaceous cysts should refrain from scratching or picking at the affected areas, because infection might occur.
Wet, warm compresses can be used to relieve any swelling or pain caused by sebaceous cysts. If the cysts do not go away or worsen, medical treatment should be sought. Removal might be necessary.
Ovarian cysts can form painlessly and disappear on their own, but they might become painful if they grow large or affect the ovary itself. These cysts can be caused by egg sacs that don’t properly break open or dissolve as part of the menstrual cycle. Endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue found inside the uterus appears elsewhere in the body, can cause ovarian cysts called endometriomas.
Chalazions appear around the eyes or eyelids and might resemble pimples. This type of cyst is caused by clogged and inflamed glands. Infection can worsen these bumps, so touching them unnecessarily is not recommended. Most chalazions can be eased at home with the application of warm compresses and doctor-prescribed drops or creams.
Ganglion cysts develop in the tissues near joints and tendons, often in the wrists or ankles. They also can occur behind the knees, in which case they are known as Baker's cysts. This type of cyst usually is filled with a thicker fluid than skin cysts.
A ganglion cyst causes painful swelling. No one is quite sure what causes ganglion cysts. Many of them will vanish without any treatment. If a ganglion cyst becomes too painful to bear or interferes with daily activities such as driving or walking, it can be drained and treated with steroid injections.
Cysts also can be classified based on whether they are cancerous. Benign cysts are noncancerous cysts. Malignant cysts are cancerous, and precancerous cysts are not cancerous but have the potential to become cancerous. Anyone who is concerned about these types of cysts or any other lumps and bumps should talk to a healthcare professional.