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Pineal Cysts

What is a Pineal Cyst?

Pineal cysts are benign, fluid-filled cysts in the pineal gland. The pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body’s biological clock, known as the circadian rhythm. Pineal cysts are relatively common and are found by chance in up to 10% of people who have a CT scan or MRI of the head. The cysts are most often found in young adults ages 20 to 30, and are three times more likely to occur in women than in men.

About the host: UTHealth Neurosciences leader Dr. Dong Kim is a neurosurgeon and Chair of the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at UTHealth. View his presentation on advanced treatment options for pineal cysts and other pineal gland tumors.

What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

At UTHealth Neurosciences, neurologists, neurosurgeons, interventional pain management specialists, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists, and neuropathologists work together to determine the care each patient needs, discussing treatment options as a group. We believe this approach can save our patients time and money and allows our specialists to share each other’s insights, leading to better treatment decision-making and outcomes.

We first investigate options for nonsurgical treatment, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, our team works closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care plan. While you are with us, you can expect expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Causes of Pineal Cysts

There is no known cause for pineal cysts, although one hypothesis is that hormonal changes play a role in their formation, as they are seen more frequently in young women.

Early Signs of Pineal Cysts and Diagnosis

Most pineal cysts are small and do not cause symptoms. They are detected only when a patient undergoes brain imaging for another condition. If a small cyst causes symptoms, it may be due to its proximity to other structures in the brain.

Larger cysts can cause symptoms, the severity of which depends on the size. Common symptoms include constant, pressure like headaches, subtle visual disturbances, memory issues, and difficulty sleeping. Headaches from pineal cysts do not respond well to headache medications, or pain medications.


Each patient’s treatment options are unique, and vary based on the size of the cyst, as well as the patient’s age, overall health, and other factors such as the degree to which symptoms affect quality of life. Small cysts that do not cause symptoms do not require treatment other than watchful waiting, with neurosurgeons watching for growth over time.

The Face Pain and Headache Clinic at UTHealth Neurosciences brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists who work together to provide relief for even the most complex problems. People who suffer from migraine, cluster headache, trigeminal neuralgia, hemifacial spasm, pineal cyst, and other disorders benefit from collaborative, highly specialized expertise focused on managing chronic headaches and face pain.

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At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

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