An arachnoid cyst is an abnormal sac filled with fluid and located near the brain or spinal cord -in a type of tissue called the arachnoid membrane.
These cysts are usually filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that bathes and cushions the brain and spinal cord. They are most often present at birth (primary type) or occasionally develop as a result of a head injury or meningitis (secondary type). Sometimes they are not discovered until later in life. Arachnoid cysts can be present in adults or children and tend to affect males more than females.
While not usually life-threatening, most arachnoid cysts are benign (noncancerous) and can be treated or managed. When these cysts press against brain tissue, they can cause serious complications such as blocking of the critical flow of CSF.
Symptoms of arachnoid cysts depend on their location in the brain and their size, but they usually include:
- Headache or neck pain
- Problems with balance and walking
- Hearing and visual difficulties
- Weakness on one side of the body
When these cysts affect children in the first two years of life, their symptoms may also include developmental delays and malformations of the brain and skull.
Symptoms often improve or go away altogether. But if left untreated, the cysts may get progressively worse over time and cause severe or permanent neurological damage.
Often, arachnoid cysts are discovered during tests related to other diseases or conditions.
To identify the presence of arachnoid cysts, your doctor will gather your family health history and conduct a thorough physical examination. The doctor may also order tests such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan, which can reveal the presence, location, and size of the arachnoid cyst.
Arachnoid Cysts Treatments
Smaller arachnoid cysts may produce few symptoms and not require immediate treatment. Instead, your doctor may recommend simply waiting and watching, with follow-up visits scheduled every few months.
Surgery is often recommended when symptoms are present and there is a risk of the cyst impinging on brain or spinal cord tissue. Surgery involves either draining the cyst or opening it, allowing it to be naturally absorbed by the body.
The health care professionals at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery want you to know that you have options when it comes to arachnoid cysts. In addition, you can get help for your back or neck condition at our Artificial Disc Institute. To schedule an appointment, call us today at (303) 790-1800 or fill out our online appointment request form. We look forward to serving you any of our three locations (Lone Tree, Colorado Springs, and Aurora) and helping you enjoy a more pain-free, active lifestyle once again.