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What is a Pineal Cyst? - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

Pineal cysts, or a cyst on the pineal gland in the brain, are fairly common although they are found incidentally. In this lesson, we will learn what a pineal cyst is, the symptoms associated with it and how it is treated.

He Hit his Head!

Twenty-five year old Raymond is bike riding with his girlfriend on a beautiful summer day. He rides his bike often and considers himself experienced, however the trail they are on has an unexpected portion of broken pavement with gravel. Raymond isn't paying attention and hits this area at a pretty high speed. His bike slides in the gravel and he doesn't remember anything else. His girlfriend watches Raymond hits his head pretty hard on the pavement and although he has a helmet on, he is dazed and confused for a few minutes. His girlfriend takes him to the emergency room just to make sure everything is okay.

Raymond has a CT scan of his head to make sure he doesn't have a brain injury. He and his girlfriend are relieved when the doctor says he doesn't have any sign of a brain injury. The physician did find something else, though. Raymond has an unrelated pineal cyst.

What is a Pineal Cyst?

The pineal gland is located in the brain. It secretes a hormone called melatonin, which helps to regulate the wake and sleep cycle. A cyst is an abnormal pocket of fluid. Therefore, a pineal cyst is a cyst on the pineal gland.


Pineal Gland
pineal gland


The doctor explains that pineal cysts are actually fairly common. Just like in Raymond's case, they are usually discovered accidentally when testing for something else.

Symptoms

The doctor asks Raymond if he has had any headaches, dizziness, vision problems, or balance issues - all symptoms that might be associated with the pineal cysts. Raymond denies having any of these issues and the doctor explains that it is very rare to have symptoms with a pineal cyst. Generally, people don't have these symptoms, however if they do, it could be due to an increase of fluid in the brain called hydrocephalus. Other issues related to pineal cysts could be insomnia, lethargy, seizures, emotional problems, or hormonal problems.

Treatment for a Pineal Cyst

Raymond asks the doctor what will need to be done for his pineal cyst. The doctor explains that treatment for pineal cysts depends on if there are symptoms or not. In Raymond's situation, he isn't having any symptoms and the cyst is fairly small. The doctor tells him that nothing needs to be done at this time. He recommends following up with a neurologist to monitor the pineal cyst, who will likely want to do intermittent tests such as CT scans or MRIs to assess the size of the pineal cyst. Many times the cyst remains unchanged or even decreases in size.

If Raymond did show symptoms associated with his pineal cyst, further treatment would be indicated. If he had hydrocephalus, a shunt would need to be surgically placed to decrease the fluid and pressure in the brain. The cyst may need to be surgically removed or drained.

Regardless, people generally lead a normal life if they have a pineal cyst.

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