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Cysts on Skin. When to Worry and Get Treated?

Some common cysts on skin with possible treatments.

You might have seen a rounded lump on the surface of your skin or any other person. It sometimes itches but usually doesn’t. You’ll be able to see them when you view your reflection in a mirror or feel them when you rub against them while wearing certain pieces of clothing or resting an object on your body. We call it an external cyst.  What are they, what causes them, and how can you treat cysts are all covered in the article.

Cysts on skin can usually form due to the blocking of pores or other body fluids. Infections, stress, and chronic inflammation can all play a role in developing cysts. The size and shape of a suspected cyst will be evaluated, as well as any signs of redness or pain, during a physical exam performed by your doctor. This kind of superficial examination is usually sufficient.

Depending on the type of cyst and its location, it can cause various symptoms. We’ve compiled a list of regionally prevalent symptoms:

Cysts on Skin.

Cysts on skin are normally tiny and harmless, but some can develop to the size of a golf ball. Unless they are ruptured or irritated, they are painless. The affected area will be irritated, sensitive, and red. Epidermoid cysts and sebaceous cysts are the two most common subcutaneous cysts. Both are often lumpy, smooth, fleshy, or pale yellow. The scalp, the back of the neck, and the upper back are common locations, but they can grow anywhere on the skin. Some common cysts on the skin are mentioned below,

  • Epidermoid Cysts.
    epidermoid cyst
    epidermoid cyst

    An expansion of skin cells causes epidermoid cysts just under the skin’s surface. These cells form the cyst’s lining and exude a yellowish, pliable material called keratin. A buildup of this trapped keratin causes the majority of epidermoid cysts. These cysts can be as small as half an inch or as large as several inches. Some of them may have an enormous pore in the middle. While epidermoid cysts may occasionally reduce in size to the point that they are barely detectable, they rarely disappear entirely without treatment.

  • Sebaceous cyst.
    sebaceous cyst
    sebaceous cyst

    The sebaceous gland is the site of the development of a sebaceous cyst. When glandular fluids cannot drain normally, a cheese-like mass can accumulate in the sac that forms. These sebaceous cysts can appear anywhere on your body (except the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet). If you give it a little squeeze, a little dome-shaped projection called the punctum will emerge. It may be as small as 1/16 of an inch or as huge as 4 inches; it could be completely painless or quite red and painful; and it might drain a cheesy-like, foul fluid.

Other types of cysts on the surface of the skin are, 

A noncancerous lesion can form in the form of a calcified cyst anywhere on the body, including the face, neck, arms, and legs. It is very small in size with 1¼ inches or less in measurement and is usually painless. Most people with pilomatrixoma are under 30 years old. In around 40% of cases, the affected person is under the age of 10; in 60% of cases, the affected person is under the age of 20.

Many people mistake pilomatrixoma for dermoid or epidermoid cysts, which are also benign skin growths. A doctor may perform a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of a pilomatrixoma. You will likely be advised to have surgery to remove the pilomatrixoma, as these tumors do not often return after the first removal.

Pyogenic Granuloma.

pyogenic granuloma
pyogenic granuloma

Cysts On Eyes

Just like other body parts, our eyes are also one to develop cysts. The most common ones are,

  • Chalazion: The red lump on the eyelid is called a chalazion. A meibomian cyst, or an eyelid cyst, is a common benign growth of the eyelid. It develops subtly when a meibomian oil gland becomes clogged. They develop more in women between the ages of 30 and 50. It’s easy to recognize chalazion because of symptoms such as a painless bump on the upper eyelid, watery eyes due to irritation, and blurred vision due to the presence of a lump. 

A chalazion may usually be treated at home with minimal discomfort. A month is the average time it takes for a chalazion to disappear.  One should never try to pop a chalazion as the risk of eye damage exists. Other methods recommended by doctors are mentioned in this article.  One should consult an eye doctor if the chalazion doesn’t clear up. It may be necessary to make a little incision in the chalazion and drain the fluid.

  • Xanthelasma: When cholesterol accumulates in the upper layers of skin, lesions known as xanthelasmas are formed. They are more common in women and people with high cholesterol levels and thyroid problems. They affect less than 1% of the population. A clinician can diagnose visually by inspecting the area surrounding the patient’s eyes. A xanthelasma cannot be removed without surgical intervention. Instead, its size remains constant or grows. It cannot be popped or squeezed like a pimple. Self-administered products that are available without a prescription may irritate the skin; therefore, it’s preferable to contact a doctor instead.

Wrists. a ganglion cysts on skin

Ganglion cysts often grow on the hands and wrists but can also occur on the fingers and toes and form near joints. To put it another way, these cysts form when “extra joint fluid” collects in a saclike structure adjacent to the joint, generally due to a small injury. They can be either stiff and rubbery or soft and rubbery. They can appear at any age, but young adult women (ages 20-40) are most vulnerable.

Ganglion cysts affect many people, with an annual incidence rate of 55 per 100,000. Ganglia are among the most frequent benign (noncancerous) masses in the body’s soft tissues. The bump is often between a quarter and an inch (usually 2-5cm) and appears on the hands, knees, or feet; it comes and goes; most cases are uncomfortable, and the discomfort is increased by motion.

Unless they are pushing on a nerve, they rarely cause discomfort but can cause irritation or a decrease in grip strength in certain people. These cysts often don’t need treatment, and research indicates that 58% of cysts will go away on their own. Unless they become large or painful. However, non-surgical options exist for treatment discussed later in the article. And after treatment, the recurrence rate may be as low as 1%.

ganglion cyst aspiration final
Reproduced from JF Sarwark, ed: Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, ed 4. Rosemont, IL, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2010.


an image of baker cycts on skin

When joint fluid gathers below the knee, it forms a pouch known as a Baker’s cyst or a popliteal cyst.  Because of its proximity to the knee, this cyst may make the joint seem bloated or restricted. Baker’s cysts are typically associated with a knee injury or osteoarthritis. As women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, both of which can lead to the formation of Baker’s cysts and are more commonly seen in those over 40. 

Baker’s cysts can cause the knee to feel like a hard-boiled egg when the person bends the knee. Joint swelling and tightness around the knee are possible symptoms. Pain behind the knee or farther down the leg may indicate a cyst rupture. Swelling of the lower extremities may occur if a cyst becomes large enough.

It’s possible that a Baker’s cyst will disappear on its own, and it’s not harmful. However, occasionally they break, leading to discomfort, edema, and redness in the calf below due to the leakage of synovial fluid. These signs and symptoms are very similar to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a life-threatening illness that calls for immediate medical attention due to the risk of complications. Reason enough to investigate the issue immediately. Nonetheless, there are measures you may take at home to alleviate discomfort:

Visit a medical professional immediately if you notice any changes in the color or size of your lower leg. It may be a possibility that your Baker’s cyst may have ruptured.


It is a slow-growing, painless, soft-tissue lump with a rubbery consistency that commonly occurs in people over 40.  However, they can grow at any age. It can appear anywhere on the body, including the shoulders, neck, stomach, chest, and back, and it can be seen alone or in clusters and is often little more than 2 inches in size.

Lipomas are extremely prevalent. 1,000 individuals are diagnosed with a lipoma at some point. The root of the problem that causes lipomas is still a mystery. Multiple lipomas in a single individual may have a hereditary basis. Fewer than 3 % with lipomas have a personal history of the disease.

Lipomas are hereditary, as are many of the disorders that produce them. Since they are transmitted via families, they cannot be prevented. And it’s still up for debate amongst specialists as to whether or not to consider it cancerous. Some types of lipomas include, 

  • Conventional lipoma. This is the most prevalent variety of lipomas.
  • Atypical lipoma. These tumors have more cells and a greater quantity of fat.
  • Hibernoma. Brown fat, rather than the mature white fat often found in lipomas, is the source of this growth.
  • Myelolipoma. Myelolipomas differ from other lipomas because their fatty tissue generates white blood cells.
  • Spindle Cell Lipoma. This tumor’s fat cells are spindle-shaped, hence the name.
  • Pleomorphic lipoma. The fat cells in this lipoma are irregular in size and shape.
  • Fibro Lipoma. One of the characteristics of fibro lipoma is that it is composed of both fatty and fibrous tissue.
  • Angiolipoma. Angiolipomas are lipomas that also contain many blood vessels.

It’s possible you won’t have to undergo any sort of medical intervention. But it might become an important visit to the hospital if anyone seems to be experiencing rapid expansion of their lipoma. The discomfort is intensifying. Or a nerve is being compressed, leading to altered or absent sensations in the area. 

If you have lump or swelling that doesn’t go away, it’s best to see doctor.

Such cysts don’t not only look aesthetically unpleasant but may also cause a reduction in usual body movements with associated pains. But they aren’t confined to external places like skin. They can also be found inside the body. Read this article to get complete information on how to treat them.

Treatment Options.

An unexplained cyst can cause a lot of stress and discomfort. Fortunately, many cysts are quite frequent, harmless, and easily treatable. The following methods have been incorporated by doctors and are proven by research. 

1. Warm Compression.

A cyst that is not painful or otherwise bothersome will go away on its own. It may be lessened by placing a warm compress on the cyst for 10 to 15 minutes daily. Slowly draining the cyst in this way can help reduce inflammation as well. If the cyst begins to flow or drain, you should refrain from touching or squeezing it. Touching an open cyst increases the possibility that bacteria will enter it and cause an infection.

2. Anti-inflammatory Drugs.

Through a tiny needle, a doctor will inject the cyst or the area around it with the anti-inflammatory medicine corticosteroid. The procedure itself takes very little time and generates very little discomfort. After receiving the injection, the size of the lump should decrease.

3. Draining.

Doctors can also drain cysts with the help of a sterile needle and syringe. Patients are warned against trying this independently due to the risks of aggravating inflammation, introducing infection, and creating scar tissue. There is no guarantee that the cyst won’t return after it has been drained and the contents removed.

4. Surgical Removal.

The final resort in getting rid of a cyst is having surgery to remove its wall of tissue. A patient may desire a cyst removed for medical or aesthetic reasons. Surgical excision is the most effective method of removing a cyst.  A clinician normally avoids excision when the cyst presents symptoms of inflammation and infection. They normally wait a minimum of 4–6 weeks for the inflammation to subside before cutting the cyst.

After your doctor has removed the cyst, you will most likely have a scar. It’s possible to have an infection, so your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment for you to use following the surgery.

5. Alternative/ Home Treatments.

There are certain cysts that may require additional or alternative treatments,

  • The antibacterial properties of tea tree oil have been demonstrated in laboratory studies. This oil may help some cysts, although indirectly. It may eliminate ingrown hair-related bacterial infections or may lessen the risk of ingrown hair cysts or their appearance.
  • At full concentration, apple cider vinegar has been demonstrated to be antibacterial, just like tea tree oil. Acetic acid is responsible for this effect. But it doesn’t eradicate cysts as per studies.
  • Castor oil has been shown to have antibacterial properties. Acne- and cyst-causing bacteria that dwell on the skin are particularly vulnerable to its antibacterial effects so preventing skin-related cysts.
  • Honey is often suggested as a treatment for cysts, although there is a lack of evidence to support this. However, an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory impact was found in a 2017research.
  • Though the anti-inflammatory qualities of turmeric are well-known, the spice itself won’t eliminate a cyst but does help in healing.

The following table summarizes the research-based methods of removing the cysts mentioned above on skin.

Area of Cyst Suggested Treatment.
Skin Many methods are incorporated for sebaceous and epidermal cysts.

  • Warm Compressions to reduce swelling.
  • Injection. A drug that decreases swelling and inflammation is injected directly into the cyst as part of this treatment.
  • Drainage and incision. This technique involves making a little incision in the cyst and gently squeezing the contents. Although this is a quick and simple procedure, cysts frequently return after being treated in this way.
  • Standard Excision. This removes a cyst entirely but can leave a lengthy scar.
  • Minimal removal. A technique that leaves minimal scarring but carries the risk of cyst recurrence.
  • Laser-assisted punch biopsies. This procedure employs a laser to create a small hole in the cyst to drain its contents (the outer walls of the cyst are removed about a month later).


  • Treatment of pilonidal cysts is unnecessary if there are no symptoms of infection. A “watch and wait” strategy will be suggested.
  • An acute pilonidal abscess (a persistent cyst) is treated by incising (cutting into) and draining the pus.
  • When the pilonidal cysts recur, surgery is the best option for getting rid of the cysts and any pockets of infection that may have formed in the area. Most of them have a success rate of 90%.

In most cases, pilomatrixoma is harmless, but they also do not dissolve. Because of their growth potential, many people opt to have them surgically removed.

  • In the case of pyogenic granulomas, If the development is substantial, the r doctor may shave it off and cauterize or burn it gently to remove it. Applying a bandage effectively stops bleeding and lessens the likelihood that it may resume.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology (AOCD) states that surgical removal of a pyogenic granuloma, followed by suturing of the incision, is the most effective removal method.
  • An ice pack on the knee for 10-20 minutes reduces swelling.
  • An additional option is a compression wrap.
  • Wearing a compression bandage and a walking aid such as a cane or crutch may help alleviate any strain on your injured leg.
  • Using a pain reliever or anti-inflammatory drug.
  • Physical therapy would assist your knee and overall health.
  • Fluid draining/ Aspiration.
  • The need for surgical removal of a Baker’s cyst is uncommon. However, it may be necessary if your cyst reappears after being aspirated multiple times or if patients are experiencing unpleasant symptoms.
Eyelids Chalazion. 

  • Warm compress with a clean cloth/towel. Keep it there for 15 minutes 2-4 times a day to heal the eye. 
  • The eyelid might benefit from massage several times daily. Light to medium pressure massage for a few minutes daily. The clogged oil gland can be unblocked with a gentle massage.
  • Maintaining personal cleanliness requires refraining from using eye makeup when suffering from a chalazion. Keep the area clean after the chalazion drains. Maintain proper eye hygiene by staying away from your eyes.
  • Because older lesions are less likely to disappear with conservative therapy alone, incision and curettage or steroid injections should be explored for chalazion that has been present for more than 2 months.


  • Chilling or freezing procedures (called cryotherapy).
  • Chemical peeling, such as 90% or more of people treated with tricholoroacetic acid (TCA) in one small trial, saw good to outstanding benefits.
  • One kind of laser therapy, fractional CO2, has been particularly beneficial.
  • Surgical procedures.
  • According to research, the statin medicine simvastatin (Zocor), which addresses elevated cholesterol, may also treat xanthelasma.
  • In most cases, lipomas don’t require medical attention.
  • A lipoma may be surgically removed if it is causing symptoms. Surgical excision of a lipoma is a simple, quick, and successful treatment after which most patients can return home the same day.
  • Liposuction may be suggested as a non-invasive alternative to traditional lipoma surgery. Your doctor will use a long, thin needle to drain the fatty tissue from the tumor.


Cysts on skin are usually not a symptom of anything wrong with your health, although they can be annoying. Depending on their placement, they may also make a person feel self-conscious. Though at-home treatment of an inflammatory cyst may help alleviate some of the associated discomforts, getting to the bottom of the problem may require a doctor’s visit. A medical professional must remove the cyst to prevent its recurrence. It is always recommended to those with skin issues should see a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment.

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Being a Doctor by profession, Aimen is passionate about helping people get better health in their lives. Aimen enjoys her research on Prime With Time subjects and strives to create better awareness of the problems and changes related to women's health.
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