A cyst is a small, balloon-like swelling anywhere in the body. A cyst may contain air, fluid, or solid content contained within a sac. Usually, cysts are harmless, but they may be removed surgically if they cause discomfort or distress to the people who have them.


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Where Are Cysts Found in the Body?

Cysts may develop in many areas on the inside or outside of the body. They may be found in the mouth around a developing tooth, in the skin around a hair follicle or sweat gland, in other glands, in the spinal cord, in the liver, in bone tissue, in ovaries * , and in other parts of the body.

Cysts form most often when fluid in a gland * becomes blocked in the ducts or tubes leading out of the gland. Sometimes cysts form because the glands are overactive and produce more fluid than the tissues can absorb. Another cause of cyst formation is the presence of parasites in vital organs, like the liver or brain.

* ovaries are the sexual glands in which eggs are formed in women.

* glands are organs that produce substances like hormones and chemicals that regulate body functions.

What Are the Different Types of Cysts?

Cysts are classified mainly by their location in the body. Some of the most common are:

  • Alveolodental (al-vee-o-lo-DEN-tal) cysts form around a developing tooth
  • Baker's cysts form around the knee joint
  • Chocolate cysts form in the ovary (named for their dark brown fluid)
  • Corpus luteum (KOR-pus LOO-tee-um) cysts (plural form is corpora lutea) are yellow bodies that form in the ovary when an egg is released during the normal reproductive cycle
  • Ependymal (e-PEN-di-mal) cysts form in the central canal of the spinal cord
  • Ganglion (GANG-lee-on) cysts usually develops around the tendons or joints
  • Lacteal (LAK-tee-al) or milk cysts form in the breast
  • Sebaceous (se-BAY-shus) cysts form under the skin from plugged oil glands
  • Solitary bone cysts form in long bones of children and adults
  • Wens are sebaceous cysts that form on the scalp.

"Bible Bumps"

Ganglion cysts of the wrist used to be called "Bible bumps." The home remedy for ganglion cysts used to be rupturing them by hitting them with a big book. Many people had only the Farmer's Almanac and the Bible in the home. Because the Bible was the bigger book, it was used to break the cyst.

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How Are Cysts Treated?

Most cysts do not need treatment. If cysts become painful, or if they form on visible parts of the body like the hand or around the ears, the doctor may remove them. Cysts can be removed by sucking out the fluid with a needle and syringe (aspiration) or with surgery. Surgery is more effective. When the fluid is removed with a needle, there is a tendency for the cyst to return. Sometimes cysts disappear without any treatment.

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