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HomeHealth articlesretinal detachmentWhat Is Retinal Cyst?

Retinal Cyst - Understanding and Management

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Retinal cysts are a form of benign tumor that develops on the retina. Continue reading to know more

Written by

Krupamol Joy

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shachi Dwivedi

Published At September 1, 2023
Reviewed AtSeptember 1, 2023

What Is Retinal Cyst?

Retinal or macular cysts are small, fluid-filled sacs that affect the retina. They can form when the cells in the retina grow abnormally. They are most commonly an inherited condition and are prevalent in the elderly, but they can happen at any age and to anyone. Retinal cysts cause a retinal detachment, which is when the layer of tissue at the back of the eye pulls away from its normal position. Retinal detachment can lead to blindness if not treated promptly.

How Is Retinal Cyst Developed?

Retinal cysts are caused by the development of fluid-filled pockets in the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). These pockets can be caused by a number of things, including an infection or injury to the eye. Retinal cysts are also more likely to develop in people who have other health conditions, such as diabetes and sickle cell disease.

The development of retinal cysts is usually harmless, but it can lead to serious complications if they grow too large or bleed into the vitreous humor. They are usually benign and harmless, but they can sometimes grow large enough to affect vision. Retinal cysts may also cause flashes of light in one or both eyes, which is known as a "retinal flare."

What Are the Types of Retinal Cysts?

Based on the cause of development, retinal cysts are categorized into the following types:

  1. Congenital.

  2. Acquired.

  • Congenital Retinal Cysts: Congenital cysts have a genetic etiology. They are associated with congenital cystic eyes (a rare abnormality in which the eye does not properly develop in the uterus), microphthalmos (a developmental disorder characterized by a very small size in one or both the eyes), colobomata (hole in any of the eye structures), and dysplasia (abnormal growth of cells) in the eye.

  • Acquired Cysts: Acquired cysts are formed by retinoschisis and cystoid degeneration processes. Age, which usually causes cystoid degeneration and may, in a small number of cases, result in retinoschisis (a condition when the retina splits into two, which is the most common factor implicated in the etiology of these changes.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Retinal Cysts?

Retinal cysts can form anywhere along the retinal thickness (the layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye) and are not always visible to the naked eye. Retinal cysts usually cause no symptoms or only mild symptoms. The signs and symptoms of retinal cysts are:

  • Blurred vision.

  • Light flashes or floaters in the field of vision.

  • Sudden onset of painless, unilateral red eye.

How Is Retinal Cyst Diagnosed?

Clinically, retinal cysts are often detected after a person has suffered from a retinal detachment for some time. This can occur due to sudden trauma or infection. However, it can also develop over time as part of a more slow-developing condition, such as diabetes or a family history of eye disease. In many cases, the symptoms associated with retinal detachment will become apparent before any swelling occurs around the optic nerve head (retina). During this period, it is important that patients receive regular care from an ophthalmologist who can monitor their condition closely and manage any complications that may arise.

The diagnosis of retinal cysts is based on a review of medical history, clinical examination, and imaging tests such as ultrasonography and MRI scans.

  • Clinical Examination: Clinical examination is the most reliable way to diagnose a retinal cyst. The doctor will check the vision and ask about any symptoms that the patient may have. The presence of a mass associated with optic nerve compression (meningioma) is suggestive of a retinal cyst. In some cases, a small collection of fluid (a "papilla") may be visible on the central retina without affecting vision.

  • Ultrasonography: Ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are the two main diagnostic tools for identifying retinal cysts. Ultrasound is a noninvasive imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of internal structures. Ultrasound can be used to visualize the size and shape of the cyst and may help to differentiate an intraretinal lesion from a subretinal or periocular lesion.

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): MRI can provide further information about these lesions because it can provide detailed images of the retina, blood vessels, and other structures within the eye. It also allows for visualization of any fluid present within the cyst or surrounding tissue.

What Are the Treatment Options for Retinal Cysts?

Treatment for retinal cysts is different depending on the size of the cyst and where it is located. They can be treated with surgery, laser photocoagulation, or medications.

  • Surgery: Surgery will often require the removal of any edges of the cyst that have grown into the retina or choroid layer of the eye. The surgeon may also remove other parts of the retina if they are causing damage or pain to light perception within that area. Surgery is the most commonly performed treatment for retinal cysts. The surgeon makes a small incision in the eye and removes the cyst using a tool called an argon laser.

  • Laser Photocoagulation: This treatment involves shining broad-spectrum lasers at the retina to destroy its cells and cause scarring. The procedure is done on an outpatient basis and can be used in conjunction with surgery for retinal cysts that are large or have already ruptured.

  • Medications: Medications will only be prescribed to people who do not respond well to other treatments for their retinal cysts. Several different options exist, including anti-viral agents like Acyclovir and Famciclovir.


Retinal cysts are benign (non-cancerous) growths that occur in the retina of the eye. Treatment for retinal cysts depends on their size and where they are located in the retina. They are typically caused by a blood vessel that is too large and grows over the area where it should attach to the retina, causing inflammation and scarring. These cysts can be removed surgically or treated with medications.

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Dr. Shachi Dwivedi
Dr. Shachi Dwivedi

Ophthalmology (Eye Care)


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