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A cyst is a closed pocket or pouch of tissue. It can be filled with air, fluid, pus, or other material.


Cysts may form within any tissue in the body. Most cysts in the lungs are filled with air. Cysts that form in the lymph system or kidneys are fluid-filled. Certain parasites, such as some types of roundworms and tapeworms, can form cysts within the muscles, liver, brain, lungs, and eyes.

Cysts are common on the skin. They can develop when acne causes a sebaceous gland to clog, or they can form around something that is stuck in the skin. These cysts are not cancer (benign) but can cause pain and changes in appearance.

Cysts can be drained or removed with surgery, depending on their type and location.

A pilonidal dimple is a type of cyst.


Stone MS. Cysts. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 110.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 12/2/2014
  • Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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