Rathke Cleft Cysts
What are Rathke cleft cysts?
Rathke cleft cysts (RCCs) are
benign (noncancerous) fluid-filled growths that develop between the parts of the
pituitary gland at the base of the brain. They are congenital deformities, meaning that
they develop while a fetus is growing in the womb. An RCC develops from a piece of the
fetus’ developing Rathke pouch, which ultimately becomes part of the pituitary
RCCs are rare. And they rarely
cause symptoms or problems during childhood, so they are not usually diagnosed in kids.
Rather, they are most often found in adults during a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
scan to diagnose another problem, or even after death, if an autopsy is done. Women are
more likely to develop this condition compared to men.
If RCCs become large enough, they
can cause vision changes or various problems with your hormones because of compression
on the pituitary gland. .
What causes Rathke cleft cysts?
RCCs are thought to occur very
early in the fetal development when the inside of the Rathke pouch does not go away as
it normally does. This leaves a space that can fill with fluid and grow over time. There
are no known outside causes of RCCs.
What are the symptoms of Rathke cleft cysts?
RCCs grow in a small space at the
base of the brain. They can press on the nerves leading from the eyes to the brain,
which can cause vision changes. The most common symptoms include:
These cysts can also press on the
pituitary gland, which can affect the levels hormones secreted by this gland. This can
cause symptoms at different stages of life:
Lack of growth or late puberty in children
Irregular or absent menstruation
Production and leaking of milk from the breasts that is not related to pregnancy or childbirth
Low blood pressure
Digestive issues, such as constipation
Low or no libido
Feelings of extreme thirst and
Unusually dry skin
Difficulty regulating body temperature
How are Rathke cleft cysts diagnosed?
RCCs are typically diagnosed with
an MRI or CT scan imaging of the brain. RCCs are sometimes first misdiagnosed as
pituitary gland tumors.
Blood tests to check hormone levels and exams to check vision might also be done.
How are Rathke cleft cysts treated?
The treatment of RCCs depends on
the symptoms. Small RCCs that do not cause any symptoms do not require treatment. Larger
RCCs that are causing symptoms may require surgery, which could include draining and
removal of the cyst.
What are possible complications of Rathke cleft cysts?
Without treatment, RCCs can
continue to cause problems with pituitary gland function and issues with weight,
hormones, and vision. Proper diagnosis and treatment can relieve symptoms and restore
healthy pituitary function.
Key points about Rathke cleft cysts
Although they are not cancerous, Rathke cleft cysts can be mistaken for tumors.
They require treatment (usually surgery) if they interfere with vision or with the normal functioning of the pituitary gland.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and
what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down
questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask
questions and remember what your provider tells you.
At the visit, write down the name of a
new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new
instructions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment
is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated
in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is
recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take
the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment,
write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
Know how you can contact your provider
if you have questions.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Luc Jasmin MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed:
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