A cyst is a structure or mass that consists of a cellular-lined sac. It is typically filled with fluid, however it may consist of a solid- or semi-solid material instead.
A conjunctival cyst refers to a cyst located on the mucous membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids (this membrane is known as the conjunctiva).
Symptoms of a conjunctival cyst may include:
The condition may be present at birth (congenital) or acquired later in life. Acquired conjunctival cyst may result from trauma.
There are a few different treatment options for an eyelid cyst, including:
Heat: Sometimes, placing a warm towel on or near the affected area of the eyelid can relive the symptoms and may sometime help to release the contents of the cyst itself.
Antibiotics: If the cyst continues to grow, you may be advised to use antibiotic eyedrops to help fight the infection and to stop it spreading.
Surgery: Should antibiotics fail to adequately relieve the symptoms, a surgical procedure known as ‘incision and curettage’ may be recommended. This involves making a small incision into the cyst itself and then removing the contents within a sterile environment.
This surgery is carried out under local anaesthetic, meaning you are awake but the area around your eyelid is numb so that you don’t feel any pain. In some cases, the surgery is done under general anaesthetic, but this will be decided in advance by your consultant and the anaesthetist and after consultation with you.
Before the surgery begins, an anaesthetic eyedrops will be put into your eye in order to numb it. You will then be given an injection of local anaesthetic to further numb the area around the cyst (this may cause a slight stinging sensation for a short period of time).
Once the local anaesthetic has taken full effect, your surgeon may choose to delicately cut the cyst open with a surgical blade and use an instrument called a curette to effectively scoop out the contents. Alternatively, the cyst may be lanced off completely. The wound is then cauterized (burnt) to quickly and effectively seal off the blood vessels.
Antibiotic ointment will be used to prevent infection and a patch applied over the eye to control any bleeding.
Drainage of a conjunctival cyst usually only takes around 20 minutes and you will be able to return home shortly afterwards, once everything has been thoroughly checked by the surgical team at St Joseph’s.
Due to the nature of the surgery, it is recommended you take a day or two off work following the operation, in order to give yourself time to adequately recover. Your surgeon will be able to give you guidance about when you can start to drive again.
You should not go swimming for at least a couple of weeks after your surgery, although you can have a bath or shower and wash your hair as usual.
You may be given some medication, in the form of eyedrops or ointment, to promote healing and prevent infection and it is important you follow the instructions you are given about using these. You will not normally need a follow-up appointment, but should you have any queries or concerns at any stage after your surgery, you should contact our ophthalmology team for advice.
Surgery to drain a conjunctival cyst is generally a very safe procedure. Nonetheless, all surgery and anaesthetic have some risk associated. Risks to all surgeries include infection, excessive bleeding, adverse reaction to anaesthetic or blood clotting.
If you experience problems, such as increased pain, bleeding or worsening vision following surgery please contact us.
Complications and risks
Any surgical procedure carries risks and the potential for complications, including:
Complications and risks specific to surgery for drainage of a conjunctival cyst include:
The above risks are intended as guidelines only and are not exhaustive. We always recommend that you talk with your consultant about potential risks and complications before you decide to have any eye surgery.
Our experienced eye consultants can provide you with a thorough eye examination to determine the extent and cause of the cyst, and then advise you whether surgery is advised.