Cysts, which are fluid-filled sacs, can develop near the spine, leading to various painful and potentially serious conditions. There are several different types of cysts that can form within the spinal cord; they include synovial, arachnoid, Tarlov, ganglion and intradiscal. The majority of spinal cysts are found in the sacral (tailbone) area. Some types of cysts are present at birth; others are caused by the spinal degeneration that accompanies aging.
Symptoms of Spinal Cysts
A patient with a spinal cyst may not have any symptoms if the cyst remains small and stable. If, however, the cyst grows to a significant size and/or presses on nearby nerves, it can cause symptoms that include pain, leg weakness, and loss of bladder or bowel control. Spinal cysts tend to cause pain when a person is still for long periods of time or assumes certain positions. Many patients can reduce the severity of symptoms by frequently changing positions and moving around more often.
Treatment of Spinal Cysts
Cysts that are asymptomatic and not growing at a rapid rate may not require any treatment other than regular monitoring. Patients who experience pain from their cysts may benefit from steroid injections, which decrease inflammation and temporarily relieve pain. Cysts that cause significant pain and are growing larger may require surgery to effectively drain and/or remove them, preventing them from causing serious complications. Surgery to treat spinal cysts may or may not include spine-fusion surgery, in which the cyst is removed and the joint fused together to prevent the cyst from regenerating.