Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


7-minute read

Key facts

  • A cyst is a sac that forms in your skin or body.
  • Cysts are common and can form in any part of your body.
  • Your symptoms will depend on the type of cyst you have and where it is.
  • Most cysts are not cancerous.

What is a cyst?

A cyst is a sac that forms in your skin or body. It is filled with fluid or semi-solid material. Most cysts are not cancerous.

Cysts are common and can form in any part of your body. They can vary in size and how quickly they grow.

Cysts are different from abscesses, which are collections of pus from an infection.

What are the types of cysts?

There are hundreds of different types of cysts. These form in different parts of your body.

Some of the common types are:

What are the symptoms of cysts?

Your symptoms will depend on the type of cyst you have and where it is. Some common symptoms of different cysts are shown below.

A Baker's cyst may feel like a hard-boiled egg when you bend your knee. Your knee joint may also feel swollen and tight. If your cyst bursts, you may feel pain in the back of your knee or down your leg.

Bartholin's gland cysts may cause a recurring, tender swelling on either side of the vaginal entrance. Sometimes, they can become infected.

Ganglion cysts in your wrist can appear suddenly and grow quickly. They may be tender to the touch. In some people a ganglion cyst may weaken your grip.

Kidney cysts can sometimes cause back pain and large ones may cause abdominal (tummy) pain. Kidney cysts can cause blood in your urine (wee).

Skin cysts are usually small and don’t cause pain. If they become inflamed or burst, they might be red, swollen and tender.

Many cysts don’t cause any symptoms. You may only become aware of them when they burst or when they’re found through other tests. Some examples of these are given below.

  • Most breast cysts do not cause any symptoms. Others can be tender to touch. A breast cyst may change size during the course of your menstrual cycle.
  • Kidney cysts are often only discovered when an imaging test is done for another reason.
  • Nabothian cysts in your cervix usually have no symptoms.
  • When ovarian cysts rupture, they cause sudden, severe pain in one side of your lower abdomen. Ovarian cysts can be associated with irregular periods and bleeding between periods.

What causes a cyst?

Anyone can get a cyst. Sometimes cysts can be caused by genetic conditions or tumours.

Some cysts are caused by an underlying medical condition such as:

When should I see my doctor?

If you notice a growth or swelling anywhere on your body you should see a doctor.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How are cysts diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you some questions about your cyst. These might include:

  • when you first noticed your cyst
  • whether its size has changed
  • how quickly it grew
  • if it’s painful

Depending on the type of cyst, other tests might be needed such as:

Your doctor may need to do a biopsy (take a small sample of tissue from your cyst, usually with a needle) to help diagnose it.

How are cysts treated?

If your cyst isn’t causing symptoms, you may not need any treatment. In fact, many cysts disappear without needing treatment.

If you do need treatment, this will depend on:

  • the type of cyst you have
  • where it is on your body
  • how painful it is

Your doctor may drain large, painful cysts with a needle. But sometimes cysts can come back after draining. Surgically removing a cyst can make it less likely to come back.

Other cysts can be treated with ice packs or warm compresses depending on their location.

If you have an underlying medical condition that is causing your cysts, your doctor may want to monitor your condition.

You may need antibiotics if your cyst becomes infected.

Do not try squeezing or bursting your cyst. This can cause an infection.

Can cysts be prevented?

There is no way to prevent most cysts.

Complications of cysts

Draining or surgically removing a cyst usually has few complications or side effects.

Your doctor will talk with you about what to expect if you have a cyst drained.

Resources and support

If you want to know more about cysts, you can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023

Back To Top

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Cysts - Better Health Channel

Cysts may be as small as a blister or large enough to hold litres of fluid.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Baker's cyst - Better Health Channel

Baker's cysts of the knee don't always require active treatment and sometimes will only require observation by the treating doctor.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Cysts - ganglion cysts - Better Health Channel

A ganglion cyst is the most common lump on the hand, and tends to target women between the ages of 20 and 40 years of age.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Baker's Cyst - Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment | MSK Australia

Do you have a Baker's cyst? Find out what causes them, how you can manage your musculoskeletal condition, where to find support & how MSK can help you.

Read more on Musculoskeletal Australia website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Digital Myxoid Cysts

A-Z OF SKIN Digital Myxoid Cysts BACK TO A-Z SEARCH What is it? Also known as … Mucous Cyst A Digital Myxoid Cyst is an entirely benign, non-cancerous swelling that usually occurs at the base of the nail on the fingers or toes

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Epidermoid Cyst

A-Z OF SKIN Epidermoid Cyst BACK TO A-Z SEARCH What is it? Also known as … Sebaceous Cyst, Epidermoid Inclusion Cyst, Infundibular Cyst, Epidermal Cyst, Epidermal Inclusion Cyst What is an Epidermoid Cyst? An epidermoid cyst is a benign walled-off cavity filled with keratin which originates from the hair follicle unit

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Kidney cysts factsheet

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Skin lesions

Skin lesions are lumps found on or just below your skin. Examples of skin lesions are epidermoid cysts, lipomata, skin tags and moles.

Read more on WA Health website

Penis lumps | Causes & treatment of lump on penis| Healthy Male

There are several different types of penis lumps. Many types are harmless. Some common lumps include cysts on the penis, ulcers on the penis, genital warts, and penis papules.

Read more on Healthy Male website

Types Of Acne - Types of Pimples - All About Acne

Acne for some is only a few small pimples, while for others it can be large, deep, painful cysts. Here's how to manage your type of acne.

Read more on All About Acne website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.