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Definition

What is an arachnoid cyst?

An arachnoid cyst is most likely to develop in your head, but it can also develop around your spinal cord. It’s called an arachnoid cyst because it occurs in the space between your brain, or spinal column, and your arachnoid membrane. This is one of three membrane layers that surround your brain and spine. If an arachnoid cyst develops in your head, it will grow between your brain and skull or in pockets around your brain called ventricles.

Arachnoid cysts are usually filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a naturally occurring protective fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal column. The walls of an arachnoid cyst don’t allow this fluid to drain into your CSF system, causing it to accumulate inside.

In children, arachnoid cysts are usually congenital, or present at birth. These cysts are called primary arachnoid cysts. Arachnoid cysts that develop later in life are called secondary arachnoid cysts. Primary arachnoid cysts are more common than secondary arachnoid cysts.

How common is an arachnoid cyst?

Arachnoid cysts are the most common type of brain cyst. They are often congenital, or present at birth (primary arachnoid cysts). They are four times more common in boys than in girls. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of an arachnoid cyst?

The common symptoms of an arachnoid cyst are:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lethargy, including excessive fatigue or low energy
  • Seizures
  • Visible lumps or protrusions from the head or spine
  • Developmental delays
  • Hydrocephalus due to obstruction of normal cerebrospinal fluid circulation
  • Endocrine (hormone-related) issues, such as early onset of puberty
  • Involuntary head bobbing
  • Vision problems

Some arachnoid cysts never present a problem, but others can cause symptoms by putting pressure on the brain.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes arachnoid cysts?

Primary, or congenital, arachnoid cysts are usually caused by an abnormal growth of your brain and spinal column while you’re developing in utero. The exact cause of this growth is not known. It might be genetic.

Secondary arachnoid cysts, also known as noncongenital arachnoid cysts, can be caused by several things. These include:

  • Injury to your head or spinal cord
  • Complications from brain or spinal surgery
  • Meningitis
  • Tumors

Risk factors

What increases my risk for arachnoid cysts?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is an arachnoid cyst diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you have an arachnoid cyst, they will likely order imaging tests. For example, they may use CT and MRI scans to look at your brain or spine.

How is an arachnoid cyst treated?

If you have an arachnoid cyst that isn’t causing any symptoms or other complications, your doctor may advise you to leave it untreated. They will likely monitor the cyst over time to watch for potential growth or other changes. If it begins to cause problems, they may recommend treatment.

If you have an arachnoid cyst in your brain that’s causing symptoms, your doctor will likely drain it. They may recommend one of two procedures. In the first procedure, they will make a small incision near the cyst and insert an endoscope with a small camera on the end. They will use this endoscope to gently open the cyst, allowing the fluid inside to drain into your CSF system, where it will be redistributed through your body. This procedure is called fenestration. In the second procedure, your doctor will insert a shunt into the cyst. This will allow the fluid inside to drain to another part of your body, such as your belly.

If you have a symptomatic cyst in your spinal column, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it completely. If that’s not feasible, they may use fenestration or shunting to drain it.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage arachnoid cyst?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: September 6, 2017 | Last Modified: September 6, 2017

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