A cyst is a fluid-filled sphere that can contain blood, minerals or tissue. Cysts can occur anywhere in or on the body, including the brain. Usually, brain cysts are considered benign but can be found inside malignant tumours. The danger from brain cysts comes from the possibility of rupture. Rupture can cause the fluid to leak and cause irritation of the brain, affect parts of the brain that control vital functions and even cause death. Treatment for brain cysts varies depending on type, size and location.
An arachnoid cyst, one of the four types of brain cysts, contains cerebrospinal fluid and usually affects infants and adolescents. These cysts are typically found in the space between the membrane and the brain. They can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, seizures and vertigo. Diagnosis with an MRI or CT scan will verify the presence of an arachnoid cyst. Treatment depends on the size of the cyst. If the cyst is small, most doctors will take a wait-and-see approach, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. A larger cyst or one that is showing an increase in size will require surgery to drain the cyst and remove the outer layer of the cyst.
Colloid cysts typically begin in embryonic development of the central nervous system. They contain a thick substance called colloid and may not cause symptoms or problems until adulthood. Colloid cysts can block fluid to the brain, which results in a condition known as hydrocephalus. This can cause headaches, confusion, brief interruptions of consciousness and even death. Treatment for a colloid cyst consists of a shunt being placed in the cyst to drain the fluid and surgery to remove the outer layer of the cyst.
A dermoid cyst typically forms in fetal growth. They are relatively rare but consist of hair follicles and sebaceous glands which produce oils and fats. These types of cysts, sebaceous cysts, are typically found on the face, neck and ovaries but can be found on the brain. Typically located on the lower back portion of the brain, they require surgical removal.
An epidermoid cyst is similar to the dermoid cyst. The main distinction between them is that the epidermoid cyst doesn't contain hair follicles or sebaceous glands. They are located in the same place typically and contain a thick yellow substance. They require surgery to remove.
If diagnosed with a brain cyst, it's vital to keep up with scheduled scans and testing. Your doctor will want to evaluate the cyst at regular intervals to measure its growth rate. If a small cyst that required no surgery begins to grow, the treatment plan may need to be changed. There is nothing that can be done to prevent a cyst and no solid guidelines for treatment. Constant evaluation is important to ensure the patient's safety and to prevent rupture.
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