Cysts and abscesses are fluid-filled lumps that can form anywhere on the body. To the untrained eye, they can be hard to tell apart. Both cysts and abscesses can be uncomfortable, and may require medical treatment.
What is a cyst?
Cysts are sacs or cavities filled with fluid or pus. They can appear on your skin or anywhere inside your body. Some common types are the baker’s cyst (behind the knee), sebaceous cyst (under the skin), and ganglion cyst (along the tendons or joints of your wrists, hands, or feet).
The cells that make up a cyst’s sac are different from those around them, but they usually aren’t cancerous. Cysts grow slowly, and are not typically painful. A cyst is not considered a medical problem unless it bothers you or becomes sore or infected.
What is an abscess?
An abscess is a tender, infected area filled with pus. Abscesses form when your immune system is fighting an infection in one of your bodily tissues.
Like cysts, abscesses can occur on your skin or inside your body. However, because abscesses involve infection, they are warm, painful, irritated, and often red and swollen. The surrounding area is usually colored from pink to deep red, and the infection can also cause symptoms in other parts of the body. An abscess can form on its own or can occur when a cyst becomes infected.
How to treat a cyst or abscess at home
One of the best things you can do to treat a cyst or abscess at home is to hold a warm, moist cloth on the area for 20 minutes at a time, a few times daily. This may soothe the area, stimulate infection-fighting antibodies and white blood cells, and help the area heal.
It’s not advisable to try draining a cyst or abscess yourself. Cyst popping at home can cause infection. Instead, keep the area clean, and make an appointment with a doctor if the area is painful or starts to drain.
How can a physician treat my cyst or abscess?
If you have a cyst or abscess that is bothering you, visit a medical provider to have it examined. At Physicians Immediate Care, most cysts and abscesses are drained and removed using one of the following two procedures:
Fine needle aspiration
In a fine needle aspiration procedure, a thin needle is inserted into the cyst, after the area has been numbed. Your medical provider will drain the cyst’s fluids through the needle. Patients typically experience no discomfort to minimal discomfort during the procedure.
Incision and drainage
With an incision and drainage procedure, your medical provider will start by numbing the area with a local anesthetic. He or she will make a small incision into the abscess using a scalpel or needle. The pus will then be drained from the abscess, and some of the discharge may be collected for testing. Once the abscess has been drained, the medical provider will clean the wound and rinse it with a saline solution.
After an aspiration or incision and drainage procedure, a few additional steps are taken. First, depending on the size and depth of the cyst or abscess, the physician will bandage the wound with sterile gauze, or will insert a drain to allow the abscess to continue draining as it heals. Antibiotics will be given to help prevent or fight infection. The discharge collected may be tested for bacterial cultures or malignant cancers.
You may be asked to return to the clinic one or more times for additional treatments to complete the abscess or cyst removal process, especially if the area is large.
Where can I get a cyst or abscess removed?
Your general practitioner or dermatologist can diagnose and treat your cyst or abscess. Although both needle aspiration and incision and drainage are generally quick procedures, you may experience a significant wait time if your health professional is booked in advance. If you wish to see a medical provider right away, you can walk in or reserve a time at a Physicians Immediate Care clinic.
With more than 40 clinics open extended hours, 7 days a week across Indiana and Illinois, you can have your health concerns taken care of right away. Our dedicated physicians and health care practitioners can drain and remove your cyst or abscess before your symptoms get any worse. Visit us to get fast, quality care for all your health needs today.