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Arachnoid Cyst - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Arachnoid cysts are sacs filled with fluid that form in the brain or the spinal cord and are noncancerous. Read below to learn more.

Written by

Dr. Shikha

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Prakashkumar P Bhatt

Published At September 14, 2022
Reviewed AtMarch 17, 2023

What Is an Arachnoid Cyst?

Arachnoid cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form on the brain and spinal cord. It is not a tumor, nor is it cancerous. They can cause brain damage or movement issues in rare cases if they grow too large or push on other body parts. The great majority of arachnoid cysts arise after birth or after childhood head trauma, and they do not cause any prior symptoms. Symptoms differ from person to person when they do appear. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and seizures are some of the symptoms. Treatment is determined by the location of the cyst and whether it is developing or causing symptoms. If treatment is required, cysts are usually drained or surgically opened to the surrounding spaces.

What Causes an Arachnoid Cyst?

Arachnoid cysts are unknown in their specific cause. The majority of arachnoid cysts, according to researchers, are developmental abnormalities caused by unexplained arachnoid membrane splitting or rupture. Arachnoid cysts have been found to run in families in the medical literature, suggesting that, in a few cases, genetic predisposition might have a role in the development of an arachnoid cyst.

Arachnoid cysts in the middle fossa are sometimes associated with compression or underdevelopment of the temporal lobe. It is unclear what function temporal lobe anomalies have in the formation of arachnoid cysts in the middle fossa.

When an arachnoid cyst is injured due to slight head trauma, some issues can develop. The fluid within a cyst can escape into other locations as a result of trauma. Intracystic bleeding occurs when blood vessels on the cyst's surface tear and leak into the cyst, increasing its size. Collection of blood or a hematoma can form if a blood vessel present on the outside of a cyst bleeds. Intracystic hemorrhage and hematoma can cause symptoms of increased pressure within the skull as well as indicators of compression of adjacent nerve tissue.

Arachnoid cysts can also develop as a result of other conditions such as Marfan's disease, arachnoiditis, or corpus callosum agenesis.

What Are the Symptoms of an Arachnoid Cyst?

Arachnoid cysts create no symptoms in the majority of cases. An arachnoid cyst can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from minor to severe. They are determined by the cyst's size and location, as well as if it is pressing on the nerves, the brain, or the spinal cord. Symptoms are more likely to arise before the age of 20 if they do appear. They are as follows:

  • Headache.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Extreme fatigue and lethargy.

  • Presence of lumps on head and spine region.

  • Involuntary bobbing of heads in children.

  • Early onset of puberty or other hormonal issues.

  • Fluid accumulation in the brain for hydrocephalus.

  • Vision problems.

  • Developmental delay in children.

How to Diagnose an Arachnoid Cyst?

Arachnoid cysts are frequently discovered by chance, usually during an examination of a person who is having seizures. A full patient history, a thorough clinical examination, and a number of specialized testing, particularly advanced imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) scan, where a computer and X-rays are used to make a film that presents cross-sectional images of the brain's tissue structure during the scanning and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) where the brain is imaged cross-sectionally using a magnetic field and radio waves, may be used to diagnose the disease. Arachnoid cysts can be detected or confirmed using computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

How to Treat an Arachnoid Cyst?

To identify an arachnoid cyst, the doctor will use brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan. These tests also reveal the cyst's size and location, which will aid the doctor in determining the best treatment option. Arachnoid cysts are treated by brain surgery. The sort of surgery one will be having is determined by the severity of the cyst and how it affects the brain and spine. The purpose is to drain the fluid from the cyst so that pressure on the surrounding tissue can be relieved.

If the cyst is small and generates no symptoms, the doctor may advise patients to ignore it. Surgical treatments include the following:

  • Endoscopic Fenestration: A narrow, thin tube containing a camera and tiny equipment is used in endoscopic treatments. Smaller incisions are used in these minimally invasive procedures. The cyst is drained, or a window is created in the cyst, depending on its size and location. The arachnoid cyst rarely fills with fluid again after fenestration.

  • Craniotomy: A craniotomy is a surgically created opening in the skull which may be recommended by the surgeon of the child to create openings in the cyst wall or fenestration and ensure appropriate cerebrospinal fluid flow. This is a more intrusive surgery, but it allows the neurosurgeon to see and treat the cyst directly. The cyst may occasionally refill with fluid and require treatment.

  • Shunting: A shunt is a device that consists of a valve and catheters (thin tubes). A tube is inserted into the cyst by the surgeon, which stays in place and allows the fluid to drain and be absorbed somewhere else in the body. The fluid is absorbed by the body.

  • Resection: Arachnoid cysts in the spine are routinely removed by doctors. The doctor will remove the cyst by making an incision near it. If removing the cyst is not possible due to its location or size, the doctor may suggest draining it or inserting a shunt into the cyst.

Conclusion:

Arachnoid cysts do not cause symptoms and hence do not require treatment. However, if any symptom is observed, consult a medical professional as soon as possible. In the case of children experiencing signs of an arachnoid cyst, see a doctor straight away. Many of the symptoms of arachnoid cysts are the same as those of life-threatening conditions like a brain tumor. It is critical to schedule an appointment with a healthcare practitioner for an assessment. A cyst that is producing symptoms can become larger if it is not addressed. An injury, on the other hand, could cause it to leak or bleed. These factors may cause irreversible nerve damage in your spine or brain.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Do Arachnoid Cysts Disappear on Their Own?

Arachnoid cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form on the brain and spinal cord. It is not a tumor, nor is it cancerous. They can cause brain damage or movement issues in rare cases if they grow too large or push on other body parts. The great majority of arachnoid cysts arise after birth or after childhood head trauma, and they do not cause any prior symptoms. Arachnoid cyst gradually become smaller and eventually disappear if it ruptures on their own. These cysts are not generally surgically treated unless they keep growing back.

2.

When Do Arachnoid Cysts Need Surgical Intervention?

Arachnoid cysts are treated by brain surgery. The sort of surgery one will be having is determined by the severity of the cyst and how it affects the brain and spine. The purpose is to drain the fluid from the cyst so that pressure on the surrounding tissue can be relieved. Arachnoid cysts require surgery only if it is in a potentially dangerous location, increasing pressure in the skull,  or their size is more than 3 centimeters. The location of the arachnoid cysts, however, determines the surgical approach and outcome.

3.

What Happens if the Arachnoid Cysts Ruptures on Its Own?

Arachnoid cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form on the brain and spinal cord. It is not a tumor, nor is it cancerous. Rupture of arachnoid cyst can be a life-threatening symptom and may require immediate emergency treatment. Intracranial arachnoid cysts, when ruptured, can cause complications due to subdural hematoma after minor trauma.

4.

Does the Arachnoid Cyst Keep Getting Bigger?

An arachnoid cyst can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from minor to severe. They are determined by the cyst's size and location, as well as if it is pressing on the nerves, the brain, or the spinal cord. Arachnoid cysts usually grow larger in size, sometimes greater than 3 centimeters, if they continue to retain the cerebrospinal fluid. The cyst may sometimes even cause a change in the shape of the head by displacing the adjoining lobes of the brain.

5.

Can an Arachnoid Cyst Turn Into a Tumor?

Arachnoid cysts are frequently discovered by chance, usually during an examination of a person who is having seizures. Arachnoid cysts are benign in nature and usually may require no intervention. However, these may grow too big and develop into cancer or, sometimes, may be precancerous and require monitoring.

6.

Are Arachnoid Cysts Common in Adults?

Arachnoid cysts are the most common type of brain cysts. They are usually present at birth, or one may get it after a head injury or brain surgery. The cyst usually does not show any symptoms and is mostly identified with Computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in adults.

7.

Can Arachnoid Cysts Lead To Memory Loss?

Many of the symptoms of arachnoid cysts are the same as those of life-threatening conditions like a brain tumor. Expansion of the cyst can cause compression and neurological damage. This may cause local ischemia and permanent damage to the functioning of the brain and memory loss.

8.

How To Identify a Cyst From a Tumor?

Cysts are sacs filled with fluid and air and can be diagnosed by their uniform appearance in the scan. Arachnoid cysts are sacs filled with fluid that form in the brain or the spinal cord and are noncancerous. Tumors, on the other hand, are usually identified as irregular or abnormal masses of tissue with no defined outline.

9.

How Can Arachnoid Cysts Affect the Brain?

Arachnoid cysts are sacs filled with fluid that form in the brain or the spinal cord and are noncancerous. Arachnoid cysts may compress the brain and cause the following symptoms.
- Headache.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Fatigue.
- Vision problems.
- Seizures.
- Developmental delays.
- Hormone-related issues such as early puberty.
Dr. Prakashkumar P Bhatt
Dr. Prakashkumar P Bhatt

Neurology

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