Cyst in the neck is a common condition in infants and children. It is usually a benign and therefore not a cause for alarm. There are numerous types of neck cysts and these may include neck masses, metastatic squamous cell carcinoma, acquired laryngoceles, and cystic schwannomas. Most of the cysts that occur in the neck are branchial cleft cysts, thyroglossal duct cysts, ectopic thymus cysts, cystic vascular abnormalities and lymphatic malformations. Most of the cysts that form in children are benign inflammatory lesions, which can be treated easily by the use of over – the – counter antibiotics.

Cyst on Neck – Overview

cyst on neck

cyst on neck picture

The most common cysts on the neck are thyroglossal duct cysts and branchial cleft cysts.

The branchial cleft cysts usually may begin to develop during the second week of gestation period. These tissues may form pockets that contain fluid or passages that drain to an opening in the skin surface. They usually form on the front edge of the neck muscle that runs from the jawbone across to the collarbone and bone found in the breast.

The thyroglossal duct cysts are neck masses or lumps that develop from the cells and tissues that remain after the formation of the thyroid gland while the embryo is developing. The cysts are common in children who are in pre- school or those in the mid- adolescence and they usually appear after an upper respiratory infection has occurred, thus when it becomes large and very painful.

There are also masses that form on the neck although they are not that common. These may include the following:

  • Cystic hygromas – they are also referred to as lymphagiomas. These types of cysts on the neck usually form in the lymphatic system during fetal development. These types of cysts may grow steadily with the growth of a child and can involve muscles, blood vessels, and nerves found in the neck, face, throat, oral cavity and chest. They are usually non-cancerous, but since they grow progressively, they can result into serious problems that can interfere with the normal breathing, swallowing and speaking of your child. There are medications that help to shrink or prevent further growth of this type of cyst on neck, or surgery to remove them.
  • Hemangioma – it is usually formed shortly after a child is formed. This is an abnormal growth of blood vessels. The cyst formed from hemangioma can either be small red pimple on the skin, or a large bluish red bulge on the head and eyelid, or soft bluish mass on the neck. These masses usually grow up to the age of two years and then they begin to shrink thereafter.
  • Dermoid cyst – these cysts are mostly found on the scalp, face and neck. They are slow-growing masses made up of skin cells, hair and glands trapped beneath the skin. They are usually removed by a simple surgical procedure.

Symptoms of cyst on neck

The symptoms usually vary from one type of cyst to another:

  • When it comes to branchial cleft cysts, the symptoms may include formation of small, painless lumps on the neck, or some masses near the front edge of your neck muscles. The masses usually occur only on one side of the neck but it can sometimes occur on both sides although it is very rare. If infections follow after the formation of cyst on neck, the lump turn into red, hot and tender mass.
  • When it comes to thyroglossal duct cyst, the symptoms may include a small, round mass in the center of the neck. In case of an infection to the cyst, it may turn red, tender and hot to touch. In some cases it may ooze some mucus like fluid from a small opening on the skin. Other symptoms may include difficulty in breathing and swallowing in children.

General symptoms for a cyst in neck may include the following:

  • Difficulty in moving around the neck
  • Drooling
  • Painful swallowing and difficulty in breathing
  • Fever in case of an infection
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes under the jaw
  • Asymmetry in the neck or throat
  • Rapid breathing

There are other many symptoms that be identified with a cyst on the neck, and this will depend on severity of the condition. If you can’t differentiate the cysts in your child by observing the symptoms, you can visit your medical provider who may help in the diagnosis.

Cyst on Neck Causes

cyst on neck removal

how to get rid of a cyst on the neck

The surface of a human skin is made up of a thin, protective layer that is usually shed out by the body continuously. Most of the body cysts occur when these cells move into the deeper tissues of the skin and multiply instead of sloughing off. In some cases, cyst on your body may form due to the irritation or trauma of the skin or most of the superficial part of the hair follicle.

The epidermal cell usually form the walls of the cyst and therefore secrete protein into the interior of the cyst, which is then usually seen a thick, yellow substance that may drain from the cyst sometimes. This unusual growth is usually due to a damaged hair follicle or oil gland on the body. Cysts are very common and nearly everyone can develop at least one or more cysts. However, there are factors that make one more prone to cysts and these may include the following:

  1. Being past puberty

People who are past puberty tend to produce a lot of oil on the skin. the  exact reason has not been discussed in details, but some sources suggests that it is because during this stage hormones that facilitate oil production increase so that they can propagate growth and development. Cyst usually form very easily during this period since oil can be clogged under the skin with some other skin cells which there appear as raised masses on the skin.

  1. Genetic disorders

You are a culprit of cyst on neck very frequently may be because you are a carrier of a rare genetic disorder that cause this condition. If one of your parent used to have a condition whereby he or she could develop cyst or lumps on the skin, then there are likely-wood that your condition could have been inherited.

  1. Injury to the skin

Some skins are very sensitive to any kind of trauma whether big or small. These types of skin may develop a cyst in the exact site where an injury took place on the body. This is usually due to the irritation done on the inner tissues which eventually lump to appear.

Causes of cyst on neck

  1. Abscess

An abscess can be described as a localized collection of pus surrounded by inflamed tissues. An abscess in the neck area may form on the surface of the skin or deep within the tissues of the neck. Superficial abscesses or those that form on the surface can be drained easily by use of simple surgical procedures. On the other hand, those that form in the deep tissues are more complicated as they need more sophisticated care, and there may need to ensure the airway is open during the removal.

  1. Infections

A cyst on neck can also form due to a deep neck infection. This is an infection located deep under the skin near blood vessels, nerves or muscles of the neck. You can develop a deep neck infection from common conditions such as tonsillitis or dental abscesses. Infections that form deep in the neck can be a cause for serious and life- threatening complications, such as obstructed airways, blood clots formation, and nerve damage.

Due to their complicated formation, these types’ cysts are treated in the hospital with intravenous medication. This treatment may also include the use of a breathing machine, tracheotomy and surgical drainage.

  1. Congenital neck masses

These are masses that show up at birth, although are not easily noticed during that time until later in life. There are numerous kinds of congenital neck masses that cause the development of cyst on neck. These may include branchial cleft cyst or sinus, thyroglossal duct cyst, cystic hygromas, hemangioma and dermoid cyst. Their treatment may vary depending on the type of cyst and extent of the mass that one is suffering from.

  1. Swollen hair follicle

You can develop a swollen hair follicle after you shave and the hair grew while facing in the skin. After this happening, an infection may take over to make the matters worse. Usually, an infected hair follicle will swell due to the inflammation and irritation caused by the disease causing organism.

  1. Tumors

Tumors are small growth on the skin that if left untreated they can cause serious conditions such as cancer. They usually grow as cyst on neck and they can equally grow on any other part of the skin. Tumors can be removed through a minor surgery whereby the surgeon cut them off to prevent them from growing.

  1. Cellular defects

This is almost similar to genetic disorders since it is a condition that is found in the body cells. Cellular defects occur when you develop a growth that was not supposed to be there biologically. It usually happens due to a defect in the cells.

  1. Chronic inflammatory conditions

Your baby can develop an inflammation maybe from the irritation of the surrounding. This is common in children who are allergic to a number of environmental conditions. Such children (even adults) are capable of developing serious inflammations that can lead to a cyst on neck or the area an inflammation occurred. Inflammation to the skin can occur from many other things apart from allergic reaction such as injury, disease and many more.

  1. Parasites

Some small animals that live by sucking blood from human being or some parasites that attack human beings in form of an infection can lead you to develop a cyst on neck. This is because, while they feed on your skin or blood, they end up leaving an infection on the site which may develop into a cyst or lump.

  1. Blockage of ducts in the body

As we said above, a cyst can develop due to the blockage of an oil gland thereby resulting to collection of fats (lipomas), or blood vessels can block leading to formation of cysts that are usually referred to as hermangiomas.

  1. Errors in embryonic developments

While an embryo is developing in the womb, it may undergo some growth defects that may lead to development of cysts on their body. This is a common condition but it can be rectified few days after a baby is born, if it is realized early.

Cyst on Neck Pictures

symptoms of a neck cyst

symptoms of a neck cyst

You are starring at an odd-looking cyst on your neck through the mirror and you can’t imagine it’s your body going through all that. This type of medical condition can give an abnormal appearance to your skin.

These bumps can be either small or large depending on what caused them. They can develop on the face, trunk and neck. In some cases, they grow slowly and are normally painless. There are many different types of cysts, and therefore we have provided some pictures that will help to differentiate one cyst on neck from the other.

Neck Sebaceous Cyst

A sebaceous cyst is usually slightly different from a cyst. Sebaceous cyst is less common as compared to cysts. They usually arise from the glands that secrete oily substances that lubricates their and the skin in general (sebaceous glands). Since most cysts are usually not painful, you may assume them while they grow into something serious.

People usually confuse an epidermoid cyst with a sebaceous cyst, but sources have suggested that these are two different types of cysts. In most cases, sebaceous cysts develop from glands that produce oil which is used to lubricate the skin and hair follicle while they carry their normal activities. The sebaceous gland secretes a mix of fats that consists of triglycerides, cholesterol, and wax esters.

How to Remove a Cyst on neck

Neck masses may need to be removed to prevent infections from taking place and becoming chronic. Even if the infection is successfully treated by the use of medication, chances are that it may come back. A repeated bacteria or viral infection over the cyst can result into more complicated issues, such as open wounds on the skin that develop within the neck cyst.

Tumors in most cases require removal. A biopsy is done to reveal if the tumor is noncancerous, a benign or cancerous (malignant). Thereafter, a treatment plan is established by your child’s doctor based on the results of the biopsy. If the cyst is noncancerous, it is advisable that it should be removed to prevent much more problems in the future, such as infections, breathing or swallowing difficulties. A doctor may also prefer to remove the cyst on neck for cosmetic reasons.

Excision process

The process by which a surgeon removes a cyst on the neck is usually referred to as excision. The process may involve the following steps:

  • The surgeon may use a general anesthesia to numb the patient, before making an incision in the neck to access the mass in the neck, and then carefully remove the tissue.
  • A CT image of the child’s neck is taken first so that it may help the surgeon while carrying out the excision procedure.
  • After the surgeon is through with the incision, he will then close the wound with stitches, and then cover the area with a bandage.
  • Your child may be a bit drowsy for a few hours as the anesthesia wears off. Some pain reliever medications may be prescribed so that they help in dealing with any discomfort during the first few days after the process. Most of the children will eat and drink well as usual after a day or two and pain may disappear within a week.
  • The doctor may do some follow-up for a period of seven to ten days after the procedure to make sure that the healing process is going well.

Cyst on Neck Treatment

If the cyst is infected, treatment that involves the use of antibiotics may be indicated before planning for an excision. This will help to completely deal with inflammation from the cyst on neck so that it can allow easier and safe dissection. Appropriate intravenous antibiotics that cover upper airway pathogens such as ampicillin and sulbactam and several others can be used.

Oral antibiotics can be used after the infection has improved greatly from the use of intravenous antibiotics and for less infected lesions.

More references

  1. Neck cysts: https://www.columbiadoctors.org/condition/neck-cysts-pediatric
  2. What is a sebaceous cyst: https://www.everydayhealth.com/sebaceous-cyst/guide/
  3. Sebaceous cyst: https://www.ehealthstar.com/conditions/skin-cysts/sebaceous-cyst
  4. What causes lumps or masses in children’s neck: https://www.ent-newyork.com/ny-ent-new-york/neck-cyst-removal.htm
  5. Surgery for neck masses in children: https://nyulangone.org/conditions/neck-masses-in-children/treatments/surgery-for-neck-masses-in-children