Skin growth is not uncommon, and for many individuals it may sometimes be hard to identify skin growth as a boil or a cyst. The right identification helps in timely and appropriate treatment of skin growth. Following subsections offer a detailed look at the different types of cysts, and suitable treatment, apart from identifying a boil. This will answer the commonly sought question – is it a boil or a cyst, and how do I treat it? This will also help individuals take the right remedial action in an informed manner.

What is a skin cyst and how to identify cyst?

A common type of benign growth underneath the skin, this is essentially a closed sac or capsule filled with fluid or semisolid material. This could include dead skin cells, oil, or sweat, and skin cysts are typically known to be painless, growing slowly, over a period of time. While cysts are harmless, they can turn infected or inflamed in certain instances.

Skin cysts are known to occur anywhere on the body, though commonly found on the face, neck, scalp, and trunk. Usually small and round or oval in shape, cysts may be slightly elevated from the skin. Some skin cysts may have a visible punctum on the surface, while others may only be felt beneath the skin.

Identification of skin cysts is mainly by appearance and texture. Smooth and firm to the touch, cysts can be moved around slightly beneath the skin. While most cysts do not have additional symptoms, in some instances, mild symptoms such as tenderness, redness, or swelling may be experienced. Infected skin cysts are painful, red, and tender, with a possibility of pus discharge.

What are the different types of skin cyst?

Different types of skin cysts have their own characteristics, and underlying causes, and commonly seen cysts include the following:

#1 Epidermoid cysts: The most common type of skin cyst, these are formed from cells in the outer layer of the skin. Small and round in shape, they are distinct with white or yellowish bumps and can occur anywhere on the body.

#2 Pilar cysts: Typically occurring on the scalp, and also known as trichilemmal cysts, these are formed from cells that make up hair follicles. Firm and round in appearance, visible characteristics include flesh-colored lumps that can be moved around slightly.

#3 Sebaceous cysts: Formed from the sebaceous glands that produce oil for the skin and hair, these cysts occur on the face, neck, or torso. Small in size, the raised bumps may be yellow or white in color.

#4 Ganglion cysts: Fluid-filled sacs near joints or tendons, in the hands or feet, these firm, round lumps are known to be painful or tender to the touch.

#5 Milia: Small, white or yellowish cysts caused due to dead skin cells trapped beneath the skin’s surface, these occur on the face, around the eyes and nose.

#6 Dermoid cysts: Rare in terms of occurrence, these cysts contain hair, teeth, and other types of tissue. Usually present at birth, these cysts are known to occur where skin and other tissues fuse during embryonic development.

How to treat skin cyst?

The treatment for skin cyst depends on the type, size, and location of the cyst, and other symptoms that may be experienced. Commonly used treatment options, begins with proper observation to check if the cyst is small, painless, without any other symptoms. In such circumstances, no action is necessary, apart from periodic checking. When other symptoms are observed, it may be necessary to take suitable action, including, draining of large cysts by making a small incision and flushing out the contents. When cysts are large, infected surgical removal may be necessary. This procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and involves cutting out the entire cyst. In certain instances, the cyst may be injected with medications to reduce the size or bring down inflammation. Squeezing or popping can cause cysts to become infected or inflamed.

What is a boil?

Skin infections caused by bacteria are boils, and are typically painful, pus-filled lumps. These are known to develop on areas of the skin prone to friction or moisture. This includes the face, neck, armpits, or buttocks. Typically, boils appear as red, tender bumps, and these gradually become swollen and painful, with the accumulation of pus.  The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, is known to be mostly responsible for the infections, entering the skin through hair follicles or a cut or scrape on the skin.

Boils are usually treated at home with warm compresses, and pain is managed with over-the-counter pain relievers. The application of warm, damp cloth to the affected area helps draw the pus to the surface and helps speed up healing. Large and painful boils may sometimes require to be drained by a healthcare professional. Squeezing or popping a boil can cause spread of the infection and can result in complications.

Different types of skin boil

Skin boils are of only one type known as a furuncle. While there is only one type, there are different stages of the infection. The initial stage refers to the appearance of a small, painful bump on the skin. The middle stage is when the bump grows larger and more painful. The final stage refers to the stage when the boil may either drain on its own, or be drained. Post draining, the area around the boil may be red and swollen for several days.

How to treat a skin boil?

Simple home remedies and hygiene can help to manage and possibly treat skin boil. For instance, applying warm compresses, on the boil for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day can help reduce the pain and swelling. This will also help the boil drain faster. Cleansing the area around the boil with soap and water and the application of an antiseptic ointment helps prevent the spread of infection. Boils that are draining, may be covered with a clean bandage, if necessary, to prevent the spread of infection. The use of over-the-counter pain relievers including acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help reduce pain and inflammation.

Is it a boil or a cyst, and how do I treat it?

It is now time to answer the above question. It can be difficult to determine whether a skin growth is a boil or a cyst without a medical examination. However, both boils and cysts are usually harmless and most can be treated similarly. Boils are painful, while cysts are usually painless. Boils and cysts are both filled, albeit with different substances. Treatment for boils usually involves applying a warm compress and if required drainage. Treatment for cysts usually involves no action, unless it is infected, when it may require to be drained or removed surgically.

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