Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Skin Cysts

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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What are skin cysts?

A cyst is a sac filled with fluid. Many people have cysts on their skin. But cysts can form in many parts of your body, such as your kidneys or liver.

  • Skin cysts are fluid-filled lumps under your skin

  • The fluid is usually white or yellow and smelly

  • Cysts don't hurt unless they burst open or get infected

  • Doctors cut them out and need to remove the whole sac or the cyst will grow back

What are the symptoms of skin cysts?

Cysts can be anywhere on your body. Most often they are on your back, head, or neck. They:

  • Range in size from about half an inch to 2 inches (about 1 to 5 centimeters)

  • Are firm and move easily under the skin

  • Don't hurt unless they get infected

How do doctors treat skin cysts?

Cysts that bother you can be removed by a doctor. Don't squeeze, poke, or pop them yourself.

Doctors will:

  • Numb the area around the cyst and surgically remove it

  • Doctors must remove the entire sac of the cyst or the cyst will grow back

If the cyst is infected or has burst, doctors often can't get the entire sac out.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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