Health A-Z

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If you have mild swelling but no cyst or if you have a cyst that is soft, apply warm compresses. That may be all you need to relieve the blockage and help to fight infection. Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and other brand names) may help to relieve pain and calm inflammation.

If the cyst turns into a larger abscess with pus, it must be drained. This procedure can be done in a doctor's office. The area is numbed with a spray or small-needle injection. Using a scalpel, the doctor makes a small incision in the cyst, which releases the pus. The release of pressure leads to immediate pain relief. With a larger abscess, a temporary drain or packing gauze may be placed inside the healing cyst.

You may need to take antibiotics if infection spreads to the surrounding skin and genital area. Sometimes, cyst infections continue to return. To prevent repeat infections, you may need a special procedure that can be done in the doctor's office. In one procedure, a small catheter is placed inside the cyst or abscess for a few weeks to allow for a new duct to grow around the catheter as it heals. This helps the gland drain better and prevents infection from coming back. In another procedure, called marsupialization, the doctor surgically opens the cyst and sews the edges to the surrounding skin to keep it open and prevent another cyst from forming.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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