Skip to main content


Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What is a cyst?

A cyst is a round, firm lump found almost anywhere on your body. Cysts may grow slowly but are usually not cancer.

What are the signs and symptoms of a cyst?

Signs and symptoms depend on the type and where it is located. You may have any of the following:

  • A round, firm lump
  • A lump that changes size and may disappear or reappear
  • Pain, numbness, swelling, or muscle weakness where you have the cyst
  • Stiffness or tightness in your knee that may get worse with movement
  • In women with an ovarian cyst, pain during sex, abdominal swelling, pain before or during a monthly period

How is a cyst diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask if you have symptoms, such as pain or stiffness. Tell him or her if you have ever had a cyst in the same area. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests may show what type of cyst you have and if you need treatment.
  • Ultrasound pictures may be used to check the pocket of fluid.
  • Transillumination is a test that can show if the cyst is filled with fluid. Your healthcare provider will shine a light through your cyst.
  • X-ray or MRI pictures may show any problems, such as arthritis, an injury, or fluid buildup. You may be given contrast liquid to help problems show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is a cyst treated?

You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • For women, birth control pills may help control your monthly cycle, prevent ovarian cysts, or cause them to shrink.
  • Aspiration is a procedure used to drain fluid from the cyst through a needle.
  • Steroid medicine may be injected into the cyst to decrease inflammation.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove the cyst.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a fever.
  • The area around your cyst becomes swollen, red, and painful.
  • Your cyst continues to drain for 2 days after you start antibiotics.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You continue to have pain, even after treatment.
  • Your cyst returns or gets larger.
  • Your limb that has the cyst gets weak, numb, stiff, or unstable.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Cyst

Treatment options

Care guides

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.