Cysts and boils can look alike, but they’re not the same at all! Boils are like pimples that get infected, usually caused by bacteria. Cysts, on the other hand, aren’t caused by germs. They might appear because skin cells grow too quickly and form a sac under the skin.

Today, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments for both cysts and boils. Let’s start, shall we?

What are Boils and Cysts?

Cysts and boils might look alike on your skin, but they differ in nature.


These are closed-off pockets under your skin filled with liquid or soft material. The ones that look like boils are called skin cysts, but cysts can also appear in other parts of your body, like bones or muscles. They can appear for no reason, after an injury, or because of other health problems.


These are like pimples that get really infected with bacteria. The pus you see is your body’s way of fighting the germs, like a battlefield clean-up. Sometimes, a bunch of boils can group together and become even deeper, which doctors call a carbuncle.

How to Identify Them?

Wondering if that bump on your skin is a cyst or a boil? Here’s a quick guide to tell them apart:


  • Show up anywhere on your body, from your head to your back, even in private areas.
  • It feels like round, smooth lumps under the skin.
  • Grow slowly and come in various sizes, from tiny to a few centimeters.
  • Usually painless, but can get red, sore, and filled with pus if infected.


  • Show up on your face, neck, and sweaty areas like armpits and groin, but can pop up anywhere.
  • Are hard, painful lumps filled with pus.
  • It starts as an itchy, tender spot and might grow to be the size of a cherry pit or even a walnut.

Differences in Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Here’s how you can understand the difference between a cyst and a boil:


  • Symptoms: No symptoms unless inflamed. If inflamed, they can be red, swollen, and painful. If a cyst bursts, it might release pus.
  • Causes: The cause of a cyst is still not fully understood, but it is likely caused by rapid skin cell growth. Certain medical conditions and injuries can also increase your chance of getting cysts.
  • Treatment: Cysts usually don’t need treatment. If they’re bothering you, a doctor can remove them with minor surgery.

*Don’t try to pop a cyst yourself—it can worsen the problem.


  • Symptoms: Swollen, red, painful, and often filled with pus. It may cause fever and tiredness.
  • Causes: Bacterial infection around a hair follicle. Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis can make you more prone to boils.
  • Treatment: Usually don’t require antibiotics unless severe. Applying warm compresses can help them drain and heal. OTC pain relievers can help with discomfort.

*Don’t squeeze a boil. See a doctor if it’s severe, persistent, or doesn’t improve with home care. They might need to test the pus to prescribe the right antibiotic.

When to See a Healthcare Provider?

See a doctor about your cyst or boil if:

  • It hurts a lot.
  • It keeps getting bigger.
  • It gets infected (signs: redness, swelling, pus, fever with chills).
  • Red streaks appear around it and spread quickly.

Remember, this advice is for informational purposes only. It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Final Word

Cysts and boils can be confusing, especially because they look similar.

If you’re unsure whether you have a cyst or a boil, please don’t try to treat it yourself; schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

The team at Bharmal Internal Medicine has the expertise to handle both cysts and boils. We offer effective treatment options to help you find relief quickly. Call us today at (817) 784-0052 to schedule an appointment.

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