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13 Types of Cysts: Symptoms and Causes

Medically reviewed by Martha Juco, MD · Aesthetics

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Feb 28, 2023

    13 Types of Cysts: Symptoms and Causes

    A cyst is a sac-like closed capsule pocket of membranous tissues that contain air, fluid, and other substances. There are different types of cysts that can grow under your skin or anywhere in your body. Most cysts are noncancerous.

    In this article, you will learn about different types of cysts and their causes and symptoms.

    Types of cysts

    types of cysts

    1. Sebaceous cysts

    Sebaceous is one of the most common types of cysts that occur on the torso, face, and neck. These are large cysts that may cause pain and pressure. 

    You can experience a sebaceous cyst when your sebaceous glands overproduce sebum – the natural oil that coats your skin and hair.

    These sebaceous cysts are noncancerous, very slow-growing, and their symptoms include:

    • Small lumps under the skin
    • Redness and warmth at the infected area
    • Greyish-white and cheese-like drainage from the cyst

    2. Ganglion

    A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled, round lump of tissue that develops on your joints or tendons, especially on the feet, hands, ankles, and wrists.

    Even though there is no specific factor that causes ganglion, fluid buildup due to trauma and injury can cause Ganglion cysts. 

    Ganglion cysts are the types of cysts that are common and harmless. Also, they do not cause any pain or complications unless they grow larger and put pressure on other organs.

    Symptoms of ganglion cyst include:

    • Pain at and around the site of the cyst
    • Loss of mobility
    • Numbness
    • A tingling sensation

    3. Breast cyst

    There are several possible causes for a lump in your breast even though it is noncancerous. It is important that you know how your breasts feel normally so that you are aware of changes.

    You should visit the doctor’s clinic when you experience any change in your breasts. Your doctor will take a physical examination and suggest treatment.

    Ensure you meet your doctor immediately if you discover a new lump, an area of your breast that feels different from others, the present lump growing larger, or you discover bloody discharge from your nipples.

    Symptoms of breast cysts include:

    • A smooth, easily movable round or an oval lump with distinct edges
    • Pain/tenderness in the breast lump or area around it
    • Increase in breast lump size and breast tenderness
    • Discharge from nipple(s) that may be clear, yellow, straw-colored, or dark brown

    4. Epidermoid cysts

    Epidermoid cysts are small, benign, slow-growing cysts that develop most commonly on the face, head, genitals, back, and neck. 

    You experience these types of cysts when there is a buildup of keratin under your skin. 

    Epidermoid cysts are skin-colored or yellowish bumps filled with pus or any thick substance in appearance. 

    Symptoms of epidermoid cysts include:

    • A tiny blackhead at the central opening of the cyst
    • A thick, yellow, smelly fluid sometimes draining from the cyst
    • Redness, swelling, and tenderness 
    • A small, round bump under the surface of the skin, usually on the face, neck, or trunk

    5. Pilonidal cyst

    One of the common skin conditions, pilonidal cysts form in the cleft at the top of your buttocks. 

    A pilonidal cyst is believed to be caused by the combination of hormonal changes, friction from clothes, hair growth, or sitting for a very long time.

    The cysts consist of a small tunnel or hole in the skin that is filled with pus or becomes infected. 

    Symptoms of pilonidal cysts include:

    • Pus or blood draining from an opening in the skin
    • Foul smell from draining pus
    • Pain
    • Reddening of the skin

    6. Mucous cyst

    If you find a fluid-filled swelling on your lips or in the mouth, it is a mucous cyst. You experience mucous cysts when your mouth’s salivary glands become clogged with mucus. 

    Most commonly, the mucous cyst is caused by trauma to the oral cavity such as salivary gland disruption, lip biting, and piercings. 

    Symptoms of mucous cyst include:

    • Softness
    • Raised swelling
    • Bluish colour
    • Lesions less than 1 centimetre in diameter

    7. Chalazion

    A chalazion is a small and painless lump that appears on your lower or upper eyelid. People experience this condition due to blocked meibomian or oil glands. 

    Symptoms of chalazion include:

    • Redness on the inside of the eyelid
    • Conjunctiva
    • Painless swelling in the eyelid that slowly grows over the first week
    • Blurred or distorted vision

    8. Branchial cleft cyst

    A branchial cleft cyst is a type of cyst that is considered a type of birth defect. It is because the lump develops on one or both sides below the collarbone or neck of a child. 

    It can occur during embryonic development when tissues in the collarbone and neck or branchial cleft do not develop normally. 

    Although in most cases a branchial cleft cyst is not dangerous, it may cause skin infections or irritation. In rare cases, a branchial cleft cyst can cause cancer. 

    Symptoms of branchial cleft cyst include:

  • Skin tag or lump on your child’s neck, upper shoulder, or slightly below their collarbone
  • Neck swelling or tenderness 
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • 9. Cystic acne

    Cystic acne is one of the most severe types of cysts and acne that develops when cysts grow deep underneath your skin. It can be due to the combination of dry skin cells that get trapped in your pores, hormonal changes, and bacteria oil. 

    Cystic acne may develop on the arms, face, chest, back, and neck. Symptoms that you are likely to see are:

    • Larger pits
    • Red, raised scars
    • Shallow depressions in the skin
    • Small, deep pits known as “ice-pick scars”

    10. Ingrown hair cyst

    Ingrown hair cyst develops as hair that grows sideways instead of out or down, becoming ingrown.  People who shave, wax, or use other hair removal techniques most commonly experience these types of cysts. 

    Symptoms that you may experience are:

    • Small, solid, rounded bumps (papules)
    • Embedded hair
    • Pain
    • Small, pus-filled, blister-like lesions (pustules)
    • Itching
    • Hyperpigmentation or skin darkening

    11. A popliteal cyst (Baker’s cyst)

    You may experience a popliteal cyst at the knee, causing pain and tightness. Baker’s cyst develops due to problems that affect the knee joint such as cartilage injury, arthritis, or inflammation from repetitive stress. 

    You may experience symptoms such as:

    • Knee stiffness
    • Severe pain
    • Restricted motion 
    • Bruising on the knee and calf

    12. Pilar cyst

    Pilar cysts are flesh-colored, round bumps that are noncancerous and develop under your skin’s surface. You may experience this type of cyst due to protein buildup in your hair follicle. 

    Most commonly, pilar cysts are located on your scalp and are painless, smooth, firm, and slow-growing.

    Symptoms of pilar cyst include:

    • Irritation in the infected area
    • Rash
    • Pain 

    13. Ovarian cyst

    Cysts that are fluid-filled and develop on one or both ovaries are called ovarian cysts. These cysts may develop normally as a part of the female reproductive cycle or be pathologic. 

    This type of cyst can be painful or asymptomatic and women can experience symptoms such as:

    • Vomiting
    • Abdominal bloating
    • Breast tenderness
    • Pelvic pain
    • Painful bowel movements
    • Nausea
    • Painful intercourse
    • Pain during the menstrual cycle
    • Abdominal swelling

    If you experience any symptoms mentioned above, it can be a sign of any of these types of cysts. Visit the doctor’s clinic and get medical help. 

    Learn more about keeping your skin healthy, here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Martha Juco, MD


    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Feb 28, 2023

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