Cysts : Causes, symptoms and treatments


Cysts are a closed sack like structure that can develop anywhere on or within the body. There are abnormal outgrowths and are usually filled with liquid, semi-solid or gaseous materials. Sometimes they can be microscopic and sometimes big enough to displace an organ. They appear as capsules and have their own distinct membranes, which are known as cyst walls. If these capsules get filled with pus, they are known as an abscess. Some cysts are harmless and are caused due to the blockage of body’s natural drainage in certain areas. However, other cysts are quite harmful, especially if they develop as tumors in the vital body organs, for e.g. keratocysts and dermoid cysts.


The symptoms vary quite a lot depending on their type and the area where they develop. They are more easily noticeable if they develop on or just below the surface of the skin as abnormal lumps. They may cause pain, especially if they develop in tender areas such as the breast. The ones that develop in the brain can cause headaches and lead to other complications if not treated on time. Other internal cysts that develop in the kidneys and livers usually are very hard to detect and are detected only through an MRI scan, CAT scan or ultrasound. These usually go unnoticed until they start to seriously disrupt the normal mechanism of the body.


The most common causes of cysts include

  • Tumors
  • Genetically inherited factors
  • Neglected infections
  • Faulty development of the embryo
  • Defective cells
  • Chronic inflammation in certain areas of the body
  • Parasites living inside the body for a long period of time
  • Injured blood vessels


The location of cysts on the anatomical structure of the body has a vital role in their malignancy. Some of these can be quite dangerous, especially if they are cancerous. If left untreated, these can affect the normal functioning of the organs and get filled with bacteria and pus, turning into abscesses. If the abscesses are not immediately removed, they can burst anytime inside the body, leading to blood poisoning. The cancerous cells can also spread to other parts of the body, giving rise to further complications.  Usually, the treatment involves the removal of cysts through surgery and the killing of the surrounding cancer cells through radiotherapy or chemotherapy.


The treatment options depend on the location of the cysts, their maturity and the amount of discomfort they are causing. If they are very large, it is compulsory to have them surgically removed. If not, they can also be aspirated or drained by inserting a needle or a catheter into the cyst cavity. This is done after an accurate radiologic imaging so that the placement of the cyst can be precisely determined. Examination of the aspirated liquid is done to see if the cysts are cancerous and if any further treatment is required. The doctors may also conduct a biopsy to determine if the cyst is cancerous. If the cysts are a result of other underlying medical conditions, the treatment of both requires to be done simultaneously.

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