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Abscess vs Cyst : What Are the Differences?

Feb 23, 2024

Abscess Treatment

Difference Between Cyst and Abscess

Have you ever noticed a strange lump on your body and wondered what it could be? Lumps and bumps can be concerning, but understanding what they are can help ease your worries and guide you toward the right treatment. Two common types of lumps are cysts and abscesses, but what exactly sets them apart?

This blog will explore the differences between cysts and abscesses, helping you become more familiar with these common medical issues. From their symptoms and types to how they're treated, we'll break down the key distinctions between cysts and abscesses, empowering you to better understand your own health and make informed decisions.

What Is a Cyst? 

A cyst is a closed sac-like pocket filled with a distinct membrane or cell wall. It feels like a hard lump and may contain fluid, pus, air, or other substances. The outer layer cells of the cyst are abnormal and different from the surrounding cells. You can have a cyst anywhere, inside your body, or on the body surface. While there are different types of cysts, most are benign and non-cancerous. 

Cysts are mostly painless and do not need medical attention but if they are painful, infected, affect other body structures, or impact your appearance, it is highly recommended you consult your physician.  

What Is an Abscess?

An abscess is a pus-filled pocket usually caused by a bacterial infection in tissues inside or on the body. It is a soft lump-like mass surrounded by a colored area ranging from pink to deep red. To fight the infection, your body’s immune system releases white blood cells that cause the pus inside the pocket.

Abscesses are painful infected lumps that are easily visible when formed on skin. Small abscesses on the skin are also known as boils or furuncles. However, it is harder to diagnose the abscesses that form inside your body including the abdomen, brain, and spinal cord.

Differences Between Cyst and Abscess

Cysts and abscesses are two common types of lumps that can occur in the body. While they may seem similar, they have key differences in how they form and what they contain.

Feature Cyst Abscess
Nature Fluid-filled sacs lined with epithelial tissue A collection of pus, formed due to infection
Contents Filled with fluid, semi-solid material, or air Contains pus, a thick fluid made of dead cells, tissue, and bacteria
Formation Result of blockage or disruption in normal body cells Develops as a result of an infection and the body's immune response
Common Types Epidermoid cysts, sebaceous cysts, ganglion cysts, baker’s cyst Skin abscesses, dental abscesses, perianal abscesses, liver abscesses

Common Types of Cyst and Abscess

Depending on their appearance and the body part where they are located, cysts and abscesses can be classified into different types.

Types of Cysts

  • Epidermoid Cyst: They are skin-colored or yellowish benign growths filled with keratin that are usually seen on the face, head, neck, back, or genital area
  • Sebaceous Cyst: It is a benign cyst filled with sebum and is caused by damage to the sebaceous glands. They occur mostly on the face, neck, behind the ear, or the torso
  • Ganglion Cyst: It is an oval or round gel-filled lump of tissues. Also known as bible cysts, they grow on tendons or joints in the hands, feet, wrists, and ankles
  • Baker’s Cyst: Also called a popliteal cyst, it is most common among adults aged 35 to 70 years. Baker’s cyst is a fluid-filled swelling located at the back of your knee caused by arthritis, cartilage injury, or repetitive stress.

Types of Abscesses

  • Skin Abscesses: These painful lumps on the skin's surface are filled with pus and often result from bacterial infections.
  • Dental Abscesses: Infections in the teeth or gums can lead to dental abscesses, causing swelling and severe pain.
  • Perianal Abscesses: Located near the anus, these abscesses result from infections in the anal glands and can be painful.
  • Liver Abscesses: Rare but serious, these abscesses can develop within the liver due to infections, leading to abdominal pain and other symptoms.

Treatment of Cyst and Abscess

The treatment plan for a cyst or abscess depends on the severity and location of it.

Treatment of Cysts:

  • Most cysts don't need treatment unless they cause pain or discomfort.
  • If a cyst is big or bothersome, doctors might remove it with surgery or drain it using a needle or catheter.
  • For internal cysts, X-rays or CT scans help doctors see them.
  • Blood tests can identify infections in cysts.

Treatment of Abscesses:

  • Abscesses need treatment to reduce pain and prevent the infection from spreading.
  • Doctors usually open and drain abscesses. They numb the area, clean it, and remove the pus and debris.
  • For skin abscesses less than 0.4 cm deep to the skin surface, they may be treated successfully without an invasive drainage procedure. However, for deep abscesses, doctors may use imaging to guide the drainage procedure.
  • After draining, the area might be kept open for a day or more with packing to ensure complete drainage.
  • Patients receive advice on home care and may take oral medication for faster healing.

Experience the Best Treatment for Cysts and Abscesses at Metro Urgent Care

Metro Urgent Care is committed to providing swift intervention and personalized care for cysts and abscesses. Our dedicated team ensures immediate attention and assistance, facilitating a speedy recovery from symptoms and minimizing the risk of complications. Contact us today for specialized care and effective treatment tailored to your needs. 

    Source: : NCBI [Article 1, Article 2]

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