Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is your Pineal gland?
The pineal gland can be found at the top of your spinal cord where it ends inside your brain right above your cerebellum. It is a miniscule endocrine gland about the size of a pea. In response to light, the gland secretes melatonin, which is a natural hormone and without it you cannot sleep. A lot of blood flows through your pineal gland so the different chemicals it puts out so it they can circulate through your body. It is also referred to as the third eye but does not connote psychic abilities. It just means that it has certain similarities to the human eye’s light-sensing retinas.
What is a Pineal cyst?
This growth is filled with fluid and is usually harmless and benign. The pineal cyst has smooth sides and appears near or on the pineal gland. It is one of four types of pineal lesions. Although this is rare the enlargement of a pineal cyst could cause hydrocephalus, which could happen if the pineal cyst was so large it obstructed the cerebral aqueduct. This is an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of your brain. A pineal cyst can be found at any age but are more common in women and patients between the ages of twenty and thirty or in middle-aged people.
Size of a pineal cyst
The size of a pineal cyst is less than five point zero millimeters
Generally, these cysts are asymptomatic, which means that they often do not produce any symptoms at all. If the pineal cyst is larger than 5.0 millimeters they might produce common symptoms like:
- Visual disturbances
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Sleep disturbances
- Increased sensitivity to light
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, it is advisable to see your physician to diagnosis what is causing the symptoms because it could be a rare enlarged pineal cysts or some other medical condition.
What causes a pineal cyst is not known but because they occur more than three times in women than men and many are under thirty there is a theory that is could be due to hormonal changes. As a woman ages their cyst will increase in size and then eventually decrease, following a similar pattern to the hormonal stages a woman goes through during her lifetime. In men if they are diagnosed with a pineal cyst they seem to remain stable over time.
Because they are asymptomatic they are normally discovered during a MRI or CT scan when these are done to diagnosis some other unrelated medical condition. They are more frequently detected during an autopsy. If they are large they can be diagnosed during a neurological evaluation and a brain scan. They can be distinguished by their characteristic differences in appearance from other tumors in the region.
Unless they are growing and are blocking the cerebral aqueduct they do not require treatment, like surgery or removal. The reason is that they are benign and harmless. In a rare case where it does become cancerous the pineal cyst will be removed.
If the pineal cyst looks problematic your physician will have a biopsy done so they can examine the material taken during the biopsy. If it is a severe case the surgeon will remove as much of the pineal cyst as can from the brain before they examine the tissue.
If a pineal cyst is diagnosed the physician will note the size of the cyst and then periodically will check to see if it has grown or is causing any issues. If it is noted that it is growing then they may do surgery to remove it before it can cause a problem.