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What’s the difference between a cyst and a boil?

What’s the difference between a cyst and a boil?


Boils and cysts can look like bumps on the skin. The main difference between cysts and boil is that boil is a bacterial or fungal infection. Cysts are not contagious, but boils can spread bacteria or fungi on contact.


A cyst is a smooth round bag closed under the skin, filled with liquid or semi-solid material. Most cysts grow slowly and benign (benign). Cysts can cause problems, depending on their size and location on your body. There are hundreds of species of cysts.

The most common skin cysts are:

  • epidermoid, also called inclusion cysts (formerly called sebaceous gland cysts
  • Mile
  • hairy, also called trichilemmal cysts


Boil (boil) – a painful bump on the skin, filled with pus. This is usually caused by staphylococcus bacteria, which are naturally present on your skin. These bacteria can lead to infection or inflammation of the hair follicle or sebaceous gland.

Boils can appear on any part of the body. Boil is also called:

  • abscess (if it is large)
  • barley (if per century)
  • carbuncle (if several boils are grouped)

Difference in symptoms

The main difference is that:

  • The cyst grows slowly and painlessly.
  • Boil grows rapidly and is usually painful.


Cysts can appear under the skin on any part of the body except the palms and soles. Cysts range in size from several millimeters (1 mm = 0.039 inches) to several centimeters (1 cm = 0.39 inches). Symptoms vary depending on the type of cyst.

In general, cysts are:

  • sluggish growth
  • painless, unless they burst under the skin or become inflamed
  • smooth when touched
Epidermoid cystsCysts of miliumPilar cysts
usually occurs on the back, face or chestusually meets on the faceusually meets on the scalp
can be moved under the skinvery small (1-2 mm) often domed
Can be a small dark cork (black point) in the centerhardhard and smooth
can ooze smelly cheesewhiteflesh color
twice as often in men as in womenlook like epidermoid cysts


Boils are usually small, but can reach the size of a baseball. They start with red pimples that look red.

Symptoms include:

  • reddening
  • swelling
  • pain
  • development of the white or yellow centre
  • ooze pus or crusts
  • fatigue or fever
  • common ailment

Different Causes


The cause of many cysts is unknown.

Usually, the cyst is formed when the cells of the upper layer of the skin (epidermis cells) multiply under the skin. Cysts can also develop in the following ways:

  • Some cysts may occur after a site injury.
  • Sometimes gland blockage or swollen hair follicle can lead to the formation of cysts.
  • Milias can be formed due to the use of steroid cream or some cosmetics.
  • Some children have miliums that disappear over time.
  • Fibrous cysts can be hereditary.


Staphylococcus (Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria are the cause of most boils. These bacteria usually live on your skin or nose.

When your skin is scratched or broken, bacteria can penetrate the hair follicle and cause infection. The boil is the result of the fact that your body’s immune system is trying to get rid of bacteria.

Hair follicles can be located anywhere in your body. Boils are most often found on skin exposed to friction, for example:

  • neck
  • breasts
  • face
  • armpits
  • buttocks
  • thighs

Fungal infection can cause boils.

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