Brain cyst could be behind chronic headache, nausea, say doctors

Depending on the size, symptoms, and location, the available option for management is image-guided cyst drainage, surgical cyst removal or placement of a shunt.
Representative image
Representative imageUnsplash

NEW DELHI: Headache, one of the most commonly encountered but often-ignored health problems, could be pointing towards a more serious condition such as a cyst in the brain, according to doctors.

Brain cysts are fluid-filled sacs that appear due to the build-up of fluid in the brain.

Approximately 1.2 per cent of the population is affected by brain cysts. In India's context, this is a big number given the country's population size is 1.3 billion, said Dr Manish Vaish, the director of the neurosurgery department in Max Super Speciality Hospital at Vaishali in Ghaziabad.

Cysts are often seen in children, however, can also be present in adults with men being 59 per cent more likely to develop brain cysts compared to women, Dr Vaish told PTI.

''Symptoms of brain cyst depend on its location and size. Sometimes small cysts may not show any symptoms but often become troublesome once their size increases.

''Symptoms can either be because of the pressure put by a cyst on brain tissue or disruption of normal flow of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a protective fluid that creates a cushion around the brain,'' he said.

Headache is the most common symptom of brain cysts. Therefore, it is extremely important that if a chronic headache is accompanied by any other symptom, one should consult a specialist, Dr Vaish said.

Diagnosis of cysts is often through the work-up done for some other reason. However, in patients where the quality of life is affected by cysts, diagnosis is done through physical examination and imaging like CT scans and MRI.

''Brain cysts with no symptoms are often not treated with any intervention and your doctor is likely to monitor these through scans. Depending on the size, symptoms, and location, the available option for management is image-guided cyst drainage, surgical cyst removal or placement of a shunt. The shunt is a bypass created for the continuous flow of CSF,'' Dr Vaish added. Dr Kunal Bahrani, Director of Neurology at Fortis Escorts Hospital Faridabad, said, ''A brain cyst containing pus, blood, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or other tissue materials.'' ''Though usually benign (non-cancerous) and localised, these fluid sacs can cause brain and nervous system problems that require intervention for common symptoms like headache, nausea, vomiting, balance problems, seizures and vision loss, among others.'' Headache is a common symptom which is mostly encountered but often ignored. ''Hence, regular checkups, screening and early diagnosis are needed,'' Dr Bahrani said.

Explaining the management of brain cysts, Dr Yashpal Bundela, senior neurosurgeon at Max Super Speciality Hospital in Vaishali, said, ''Arachnoid cysts are often drained with the support of imagery. The dermoid and epidermoid cysts are surgically removed. Colloid cysts lead to CSF build-up; therefore, a shunt surgery is performed to treat the symptoms.'' ''These types of cysts are quite deep in the brain. Therefore, to remove these cysts a special surgery is performed. Pineal cysts often cause no problem and therefore these are managed by watching for any changes," the doctor added.

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