Arachnoid Cysts

Also known as: intracranial cysts, intracranial arachnoid cysts, spinal arachnoid cysts

What are arachnoid cysts?

There are three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord (the dura mater, the arachnoid and the pia mater). Arachnoid cysts are fluid filled sacs or cavities of surrounding cells and collagen, that appear on the arachnoid membrane and can present in many locations on the brain and/or spinal cord. In many cases the cysts do not cause any symptoms, however symptoms can occur when these sacs block the normal pathway of the fluid that surrounds the brain (cerebrospinal fluid) causing hydrocephalus, and/or exert pressure on nearby nerves, hemorrhage on the brain or in the cranial cavity.
 

What causes arachnoid cysts?

The exact causes of arachnoid cysts are unknown. Most experts believe that a majority of arachnoid cysts are congenital disorders or developmental malformations that occur due to the splitting or tearing of the arachnoid mater during gestation. There is reason to believe that heredity may play a role in their occurrence. Most of these cases manifest during infancy, but onset may be delayed until adolescence. Some arachnoid cysts might occur due to injury or disease after birth. Arachnoid cysts may be associated to other primary disorders such as Marfan syndrome, arachnoiditis, or agenesis of the corpus callosum (also known as ACC).
 

What are the symptoms of arachnoid cysts?

Small cysts may never cause symptoms and may be found incidentally. Specific symptoms depend on the size and  location of the cyst. A short list of the signs/ symptoms include: changes in the skull shape (cranial deformation ) , headache, nausea and vomiting, seizures,  bobbing and nodding of the head, ADHD, hydrocephalus, and many many others.
 

What are arachnoid cyst care options?

Arachnoid cysts that are asymptomatic and do not affect surrounding tissues usually do not require treatment (some believe that asymptomatic children should be treated to avoid future complications); children with symptoms will require surgery which may be one of a variety of procedures. Most treated children do well. Symptomatic and supportive may be provided.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 3/17/2017 11:39:19 AM

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