Difference between Cyst and Boil

A cyst and a boil are two common skin conditions that occur among people. A cyst is a closed capsule or sac-like structure. It is typically filled with liquid, semisolid or gaseous material. A boil, on the other hand, is an infection of the hair follicle. A boil is a deep folliculitis and is also called a furuncle.

There are hundreds of types of cysts. They may appear just below the skin or inside the body connected to tissue or an organ. They vary in size from microscopic to the size of some team-sport balls. Large cysts can even displace internal organs. Skin cysts usually appear as an abnormal lump just below the skin and may or may not be painful. A cyst in the breasts may be noticeable when the breasts are examined by touching them and are often painful. Some cysts may not be noticeable or visible except under imaging systems. Cysts in the brain can cause headaches, as well as other symptoms.

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A boil is a deep folliculitis, an infection of the hair follicle. It is caused by an infection of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Boils result in a painful swollen area on the skin caused by an accumulation of pus and dead tissue. Boils may cluster together, joining to form one head. These boils are called carbuncles. If a boil forms on the eyelid, it is called a sty. Boils should not be popped, as it may lead to spreading of the infection, including a blood infection. Boils usually pop by themselves.

A detailed comparison between a cyst and a boil:





A cyst is a closed sac, having a distinct membrane and division compared to the nearby tissue. It may contain air, fluids, or semi-solid material.

A boil is a skin infection that starts in a hair follicle or oil gland.


Can occur anywhere in the body in people of any age.

Boils commonly appear on the face, neck, armpits, shoulders, and buttocks.


There are more than a hundred types

If a boil forms on the eyelid, it is called a sty. If several boils appear in a group, this is a more serious type of infection called a carbuncle.


Tumors, genetic conditions, infections, a fault in an organ of a developing embryo, a defect in the cells, chronic inflammatory conditions, blockages of ducts in the body which cause a fluid build-up, a parasite, impact injury that breaks a vessel.

Most boils are caused by staphylococcal bacteria. The bacterium enters the body through tiny nicks or cuts in the skin or can travel down the hair to the follicle. People with diabetes, problems with the immune system, poor nutrition, poor hygiene, or exposure to harsh chemicals that irritate the skin are more susceptible to boils.

Benign or malignant

Most cysts are benign and are caused by plugged ducts or other natural body outlets for secretions. However, some cysts may be tumors and/or are formed inside tumors - these can be potentially malignant.

Most boils are benign; however they may lead to a severe infection.


Abnormal lump just below the skin and may or may not be painful. Some may be discovered by imaging studies, such as x-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, etc.

At first, the skin turns red in the area of the infection, and a tender lump develops. After four to seven days, the lump starts turning white as pus collects under the skin.

Symptoms of a severe infection:

  • The skin around the boil becomes infected. It turns red, painful, warm, and swollen.
  • More boils may appear around the original one.
  • A fever may develop.
  • Lymph nodes may become swollen.


Cysts may go away by themselves, or must be surgically removed. Sometimes the fluid within a cyst can be drained by inserting a catheter or needle into it and collapsing it.

Apply warm compresses and soak the boil in warm water. Do not pop the boil; it will drain on its own. When the boil starts draining, wash it regularly with an antibacterial soap until all the pus is gone. Wash the infected area - two to three times a day - and use warm compresses until the wound heals. If the boil is severe but no pus is released, the doctor may lance the boil to allow drainage of the pus and prescribe antibiotics.

Image Courtesy: bellevue-dermatology.com, babyboomeradvisorclub.com

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good articles

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