Cysts - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Synopsis: A cyst is a closed and sac like structure that contains gas fluid or semi-solid material. A cyst is a closed and sac like structure that contains gas, fluid, or semi-solid material and is not a regular part of the person's tissue where it is located.
Main DigestA cyst is a closed and sac like structure that contains gas, fluid, or semi-solid material and is not a regular part of the person's tissue where it is located.
Cysts are common and may occur anywhere on a person's body, at any age. Cysts can vary in size and might be detectable only underneath a microscope. Cysts may also grow large enough to displace a person's tissues and organs. The outer wall of a cyst is referred to as its, 'capsule.'
Pilanidal cysts occur at the base of a person's tailbone, or coccyx. A doctor may use the term, 'pilonidal disease,' in reference to a range of issues that may affect this area of a person's body. In more simple cases, a small and solitary cyst-like area containing fluid can occur without evidence of an infection. At other times, the area might become infected and fill with pus, creating something called a, 'pilonidal abscess.' When the condition becomes severe the infection may spread and create multiple abscesses and sinus tracts. The term, 'cyst,' is commonly used in this instance and is actually a misnomer because true cysts present a characteristic cellular lining that is lacking in the majority of cases of pilonidal disease.
- There are hundreds of types of cysts
- Cysts can be located in all areas of the body
- Superficial cysts may be felt as an abnormal lump
- Cysts of internal organs may not be noticed and may or may not produce symptoms
- Cysts are common, closed sac-like structures containing fluid, gas, or semisolid material
- The majority of cysts are benign, but certain cases can be associated with malignant tumors
- A number of different processes can result in cyst formation, including blockage of the flow of fluids, infection, trauma, tumors, congenital defects, and chronic inflammatory conditions
Types of Cysts
There are hundreds of types of cysts that can arise in a person's body. Some of the more well-known types of cysts include the following:
- Epidermal cysts of the skin
- Baker cyst behind the knee
- Cysts within the thyroid gland
- Cysts of the glands within the eyelid
- Ovarian cysts, including dermoid cysts
- Ganglion cysts of the joints and tendons
- Sebaceous cysts of the small glands in the skin
- Pineal cysts, cysts within the pineal gland of the brain
- Tarlov cysts, also known as meningeal or perineural cysts
- Pancreatic cysts are collections of fluid within the pancreas
- Cysts in the breast which are part of benign proliferative disease
- Bartholin cysts, enlargement of small glands near the vaginal opening
- Pancreatic cysts are pseudocysts and do not contain specialized lining cells
- Polycystic kidney disease, an inherited condition in which the kidneys contain multiple cysts
Most cysts are benign, although some can produce symptoms because of their size or location. On rare occasion, cysts may be associated with malignant tumors, or serious infections. A doctor can address any concerns you may have about a lump or swelling, possibly recommending tests to determine if a cyst is present and the cause. Additional types of cysts include:
Endometriomas: Endometriomas can develop in women who have endometriosis if the tissue from the lining of their uterus grows outside of their uterus. The tissue can attach to their ovary and potentially form a growth. The resulting cysts may be painful during sexual intercourse, as well as during menstruation.
Cystadenomas: Cystadenomas can develop from cells on the outer surface of a woman's ovary. The cysts are many times filled with a thick and sticky gel, or watery fluid. The cysts may become large, causing the woman pain.
Dermoid cysts: Dermatoid cysts in a woman's ovary have the ability to make teeth, hair and additional growing tissues that become a part of a forming ovarian cyst. The cysts may become large and cause the woman pain.
Polycystic ovaries: Polycystic ovaries happen when eggs mature within follicles, or sacs, yet the sac does not break and release the egg. The cycle then repeats, and follicles continue to grow inside the woman's ovary - cysts then form.
Causes of Cysts
Cysts can occur because of a number of processes in a person's body. These processes may include the following:
- Genetic conditions
- Chronic inflammatory conditions
- Defects in developing organs in the embryo
- Wear and tear, or simple obstructions to the flow of fluid
The majority of cysts occur because of the types of conditions presented above. Cysts are only preventable to the extent the underlying cause is preventable.
Signs and Symptoms of a Cyst
At times a person may feel a cyst themselves when they feel an abnormal, 'lump.' For example, skin cysts, or tissues beneath a person's skin, are often noticeable. Cysts in a woman's mammary glands are also many times noticeable. Cysts of internal organs, such as the liver or kidney, might not present symptoms or be detectable by the person. These cysts are often first discovered through imaging studies such as ultrasound, X-rays, CAT scans, or MRI's. Cysts may or may not cause symptoms depending upon their size and location.
Small pilonidal cysts might not cause symptoms if they do not become infected. Symptoms and signs of a pilonidal cyst or abscess can include pain, swelling, redness at the base of the person's spine, or a localized bump. Pilonidal abscesses usually cause pain and redness that is more noticeable; the person may also have a fever.
Medical experts believe that cysts occur because of trauma to the area resulting from ingrown hairs. Pilonidal cysts many time have hair when they are excised, although hair follicles haven't been demonstrated in them; something that suggests the hair might have been introduced from outside the cyst itself. Pilonidal disease was a common issue among military personnel during World War II, and was believed to be caused by mechanical trauma from riding in trucks, jeeps, and tanks.
Women with ovarian cysts may not experience any symptoms whatsoever. The cyst can cause the following:
- Weight gain
- Breast tenderness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Dull ache in the lower back and thighs
- Painful menstrual periods and abnormal bleeding
- Pressure, bloating, fullness, or pain in the abdomen
- Problems passing urine completely or urinary urgency
The fact that ovarian cysts might not cause a woman to experience symptoms finds them many times being discovered during a pelvic examination. During the exam, a doctor might be able to feel the swelling of the cyst on the woman's ovary. Once the cyst has been discovered, an ultrasound is indicated to visualize the shape of the cyst, as well as its location and size, and whether or not it is solid, fluid-filled, or both. A pregnancy test is also indicated. Hormone levels, such as follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, testosterone and estradiol, might also be assessed.
In order to determine if a cyst may be cancerous, the person's CA-125 levels should be measured. The amount of the protein is higher if a woman has ovarian cancer. Some ovarian cancers; however, might not produce enough of the protein to be detectable through the test. Additionally, other noncancerous diseases such as uterine fibroids and endometriosis, may increase the levels of CA-125 in a person. Noncancerous causes of increased CA-125 are more common in women under the age of thirty-five, while ovarian cancer is very uncommon for women in this particular age group. Because of this, the CA-125 test is usually recommended for women over the age of thirty-five, who are at a higher risk for the disease, and have a cyst that is partially solid.
Treatment of a cyst is dependent upon the cause of the cyst, as well as its location. Cysts that are large and result in symptoms because of their size might be surgically removed. Sometimes the fluid within a cyst can be drained by inserting a catheter or needle into it and collapsing it. Radiologic imaging might be used for guidance in draining the cyst if it isn't readily accessible.
If a doctor suspect a cyst is cancerous, the cyst is commonly biopsied to rule out malignancy. The cyst is also commonly removed surgically. In some cases, aspirated fluid from a cyst is examined microscopically to determine of cancer cells are present. Should a cyst arise due to a chronic medical condition such as fibrocystic breast disease or polycystic ovary syndrome, treatment is aimed at the underlying condition.
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