Why Do I Get Cysts?

What are cysts?

Cysts are sac-shaped lumps that can occur anywhere in your body. The inferior region of the sac contains pus, gas, semi-fluid, or body fluid. They are mainly present or attached to the surface of the organ or skin. It can develop anywhere in your body; hence, they are differentiated as follows:

  • Epidermoid sebaceous cysts – These are less harmful lumps and can be visible on regions like the testis, spleen, head, behind the ear, and neck. They are usually filled with yellow sebum and are easily visible. The shape and size vary from patient to patient. The formation of these cysts is due to mechanical blockage by retention and secretion; they can be irritant and sometimes.1 Some cysts are surrounded by an epithelial cell wall, which can be stratified or unstratified squamous epithelium. These are known as true cysts. Pseudocysts, on the other hand, are not lined by epithelium but are surrounded by connective or granulation tissue. Cutaneous cysts are dome-shaped and are a little deep inside the skin. These are generally diagnosed via histopathology. All the cysts are lined by keratin, which is a protein2
  • Ovarian cysts- ovarian cysts are present inside the uterus inferior to fallopian tubes and are also known as adnexal masses. Most ovarian cysts are functional and benign, requiring no surgical intervention. However, ovarian cysts can cause complications such as pelvic pain, cyst rupture, blood loss, and ovarian torsion, all of which necessitate prompt treatment2
  • Synovial cysts- these cysts can occur anywhere in the joint region (face joints, spinal joint). They are formed by tissue collection in one place. Many synovial cysts in the lumbar spine occur at the L4-L5 level, where mobility is greatest. The prevalence of cysts near this facet joint level has been linked to the amount of degenerative spondylosis and spinal instability3
  • Arachnoid cysts- when the cerebrospinal fluid is collected in the central nervous system, a cyst is formed. A ball-valve mechanism; an osmotic gradient between the intra- and extra cystic medium; primary arachnoid membrane malformation or cerebral lobe agenesis; and fluid hypersecretion from the wall lining of the cyst4
  • Thyroglossal cysts- formation of a fibrous cyst in the thyroglossal duct generally found near the neck. Thyroglossal duct carcinomas account for about 1% of all thyroglossal duct cysts. The first tongue swelling, the median lingual swelling, gives rise to two oval and laterally positioned lingual swellings on either side. As the lateral swellings expand and encroach on the median tongue bud5
  • Thyroid cysts- Thyroid hormone concentrations (T4, T3, and rT3) in cyst fluid are generally higher in solitary thyroid cysts than in cysts associated with nodular goitre, and in the latter, thyroid hormone levels are generally higher than in thyroglossal duct or parathyroid cysts. In some patients, the calcitonin level is high6
  • Kidney cysts- The most common genetic cause of end-stage renal failure is cystic kidney disease. They are distinguished by the progressive development of nephrons and collecting duct cysts, and patients frequently require dialysis and kidney transplantation. Several genes associated with cystic renal disease have been linked to canonical Wnt signalling7
  • Maxillary cysts- maxillary or dentigerous cysts are benign odontogenic cysts associated with permanent tooth crowns. They are rarely painful, but they can cause facial swelling and delayed tooth eruption. Multiple cysts have been reported in association with syndromes such as mucopolysaccharidosis and basal cell nevus syndrome8


  • Due to decreased circulation, decreased respiration and decreased blood circulation, one can see the formation of lumps on the skin or the other vital organs
  • The main cause of cysts can be an infection or clogging of sebaceous glands

Signs and symptoms

  • Pain, irritation, and discomfort are some common symptoms of developing cysts
  • Ovarian cysts can cause pelvic pain
  • Sebaceous cysts cause painful sensations, soreness, and pressure, especially on the face and neck. These large cysts, too, appear white to yellow at first but turn red when infected, becoming warm and tender to the touch
  • Currently, the most common symptoms of the arachnoid cyst are headache, weakness, seizure, hydrocephalus, scoliosis, cognitive decline, and visual loss9
  • The majority of synovial symptomatic patients have radicular pain and neurological deficits3
  • Laryngeal stridor, respiratory obstruction, and dysphagia are some symptoms of thyroglossal cysts

Management and treatment

Some clinical and imaging features, such as cyst location, may provide diagnostic clues that lead to a presumptive diagnosis.2

All cysts are generally removed via surgery or non-surgery. Bed rest, physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, oral analgesics, bracing, and targeted lumbar spinal injections are examples of nonsurgical treatments.10

In synovial spine cysts, direct cyst puncture, cyst aspiration, and steroid installation via an intra-articular approach, selective spinal nerve blocks, are examples of surgical procedures.10

Treatment for arachnoid cysts includes CP shunt placement, craniotomy or endoscopic fenestration, and stereotactic aspiration.9 The classic Sistrunk procedure remains the treatment of choice for thyroglossal duct cysts.5


  • Diagnosis- CT scan, ultrasound scan, and punch biopsy (to study the condition of the skin)
  • MRI- magnetic resonance imaging for synovial cysts
  • Cysts are difficult to remove when they are ruptured
  • MRIs fail to show maxillary cysts due to the presence of bone
  • Thyroglossal cyst- Computerized tomography and fine needle aspiration biopsy are frequently used as supplementary techniques for diagnosis confirmation
  • Ultrasonography is used for the diagnosis of thyroid cysts
  • It may cause cancer if not treated and can give rise to abnormal cells, which can further cause cancerous cell growth


The cysts are sac-structured bags filled with gasses, body fluids, or tissues developed in one region. Cysts can be of different types and can develop in any region of the human body. Cysts are different from lipomas as cysts develop over the skin and the organ’s surface, but lipomas are deep inside the skin and can be difficult to locate, while cysts can be located without any harm. The symptoms may vary from cyst to cyst, but the common symptoms are pain, irritation, and inflammation. Cysts can be diagnosed via CT scans, ultrasound scans, neuroimaging, and punch biopsy, where the cysts are pricked a little and taken for lab tests. The treatment varies; some of the treatment includes, CP shunt placement, craniotomy, bed rest, physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and oral analgesics.


  1. Jones EW. Proliferating epidermoid cysts. Archives of Dermatology. 1966;94(1):11-9.
  2. Trinh CT, Nguyen CH, Chansomphou V, Chansomphou V, Tran TTT. Overview of epidermoid cyst. European journal of radiology open. 2019;6:291-301.
  3. Khan AM, Girardi F. Spinal lumbar synovial cysts. Diagnosis and management challenge. European Spine Journal. 2006;15:1176-82.
  4. Basaldella L, Orvieto E, Dei Tos AP, Della Barbera M, Valente M, Longatti P. Causes of arachnoid cyst development and expansion. Neurosurgical Focus. 2007;22(2):1-4.
  5. Chou J, Walters A, Hage R, Zurada A, Michalak M, Tubbs RS, et al. Thyroglossal duct cysts: anatomy, embryology and treatment. Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy. 2013;35(10):875-81.
  6. CLARK OH, OKERLUND MD, CAVALIERI RR, GREENSPAN FS. Diagnosis and treatment of thyroid, parathyroid, and thyroglossal duct cysts. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 1979;48(6):983-8.
  7. Lancaster MA, Gleeson JG. Cystic kidney disease: the role of Wnt signaling. Trends in molecular medicine. 2010;16(8):349-60.
  8. Ustuner E, Fitoz S, Atasoy C, Erden I, Akyar S. Bilateral maxillary dentigerous cysts: a case report. Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology. 2003;95(5):632-5.
  9. Pradilla G, Jallo G. Arachnoid cysts: case series and review of the literature. Neurosurgical focus. 2007;22(2):1-4.
  10. Shah RV, Lutz GE. Lumbar intraspinal synovial cysts: conservative management and review of the world's literature. The Spine Journal. 2003;3(6):479-88.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Srishti Dixit

Masters of Science in Biomedical Engineering, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Hi! My name is Srishti Dixit I am currently doing my masters in Biomedical Engineering. I have always been inclined towards research and scientific writing since my bachelors. Sharing knowledge about health and healthy lifestyle and alarming people about it is important. A healthy mindset and body is always a first step to positivity. Reading articles spread awareness and encouragement to follow a healthy lifestyle.

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