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What Is a Cyst?

By Paul Rothbart

Cysts are sometimes developed in various parts of the body. They are enclosed capsules, separate from surrounding tissue. A cyst usually contains fluid, air, or semi-solid material. There are several types of cysts, some of which are health threats and some that are not. They may resolve on their own or have to be removed surgically. 

Cysts that are cancerous are formed as part of the body's defense against the reproduction of mutated cells. The cyst is developed to contain the cells and stop their spread. If you have a cyst, see a doctor but it's a good idea to know the different types.


A common cyst that appears on an eyelid is a chalazion. It is caused by a blocked oil gland. Although they generally produce swelling and tenderness, chalazions are usually not painful. They can grow bigger and often cause redness and excess tearing. This type of cyst is not cancerous and tends to respond well to warm compresses. In more extreme cases, drainage of the cyst or steroid injections may be necessary. 

Renal Cyst

Renal cysts occur in the kidneys where they encapsulate fluid. Most of these cysts are benign and don't require surgery. A doctor will monitor them to ensure they don't become dangerous. As many as 27 percent of adults over the age of 50 may have asymptomatic renal cysts. Renal cysts are common in those who have cystic kidney disease. If a doctor suspects that a renal cyst is cancerous, it will be removed surgically. 

Pilar Cyst

A cyst that forms on a hair follicle is called a pilar cyst and they are most commonly found on the scalp. They are filled with keratin and are usually smooth and moveable. They are most often found on the parts of the scalp that have the highest concentrations of hair follicles. In about 30 percent of cases, there is a single cyst while the other 70 percent involve multiple cysts. Pilar cysts can be removed with simple surgery using a local anesthetic.

Epidermoid Cyst

Epidermoid cysts are found on the skin, usually in parts of the body with little to no hair. They tend to be asymptomatic but are often tender to the touch. The cyst develops from ectodermal tissue and most of the time they are benign. In some rare cases, a malignant tumor may develop from an epidermoid cyst. 

Cysts of various types are not uncommon. If you discover you have one, there is no need to panic. Most types are usually benign. Don't take chances with a self-diagnosis. See your primary health care provider for a professional diagnosis and recommended treatment.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Dacula, Ga.

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