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What Is a Conjunctival Cyst?

The conjunctiva is the clear membrane covering the white part of your eye. If you've ever had pinkeye, it was your conjunctiva that was inflamed. 

Cysts can also happen on your conjunctiva, though they’re not as common as pinkeye. They are a little more serious. But they sometimes go away on their own.

Eye Anatomy

The conjunctiva plays an important role in eye health. It protects the eye from bacteria and provides lubrication for easy eye movement.  

The liquid around the eyeball has three layers. The inner layer is a kind of mucus that is secreted by the conjunctiva. The next layer is what we commonly call tears. Glands above each eyeball make tears. The third layer is an oily film made by a different gland.

The conjunctiva covers parts of the eyeball, but it also covers the insides of the eyelids. The fornix is the place where the eyeball covering meets the eyelid covering. The tissue in these areas is loose and soft so that the eye can move freely. Some conjunctival cysts happen in this area.

Symptoms of Conjunctival Cysts

If you have a conjunctival cyst, you may be able to see it. It looks like a clear blister or bubble on the eye. You may have extra tears and feel as if you have something in your eye. Sometimes, you might not notice any symptoms at all. 

People who have conjunctival cysts often go to the doctor when they notice the cyst getting larger. The cyst may also become so noticeable that it is a cosmetic issue. Rarely, the cysts may cause blurred vision or affect how well your eyeball moves.

Causes of Conjunctival Cysts

Chemicals, allergies, and dry air can irritate the conjunctiva, leading to conjunctival cysts. 

Some conjunctival cysts are congenital, meaning they’re there at birth. They usually happen at the fornix, where the eyelid membrane joins with the eyeball membrane. They are generally slow-growing and may go unnoticed for years. But there have been some cases of young children having large cysts.

Other conjunctival cysts may be caused by trauma to the eye. They can result from eye surgery, especially cataract surgery. They can also be caused by certain parasites. 

Non-Surgical Treatment for Conjunctival Cysts

Sometimes, conjunctival cysts go away on their own. Doctors often advise waiting to see if this happens. To make your eye feel better in the meantime, you can use:

  • Artificial tears or other lubricating drops
  • Prescription steroid drops to ease inflammation
  • Warm compresses, which may cause the cyst to break
  • Antibiotic ointment prescribed by a doctor, in case of infection

Eye Surgery for Conjunctival Cysts

If your conjunctival cyst is affecting your vision or your quality of life, you and your doctor may decide on more aggressive treatment. 

The simplest thing that your doctor can do is to drain the cyst. To keep it from coming back, they can give an injection to shrink the vessels that carry blood and other fluids to the area. This technique – called sclerotherapy – is similar to a treatment for varicose veins

Doctors can also remove conjunctival cysts. They may use a staining agent to show the borders of the cyst so they can take it off completely. They sometimes use lasers, which are more precise and less invasive than traditional surgical tools. They may do this in their office instead of needing an operating room.  

Another method for dealing with conjunctival cysts involves using plasma, an ionized gas produced by heating. The doctor puts plasma on the cyst, which causes it to rupture, removes it, and keeps it from coming back. This technique can be done in the office under a local anesthetic.

Show Sources

‌SOURCES:

American Academy of Ophthalmology: "Conjunctivitis: What Is Pink Eye?" "Eye Anatomy: Parts of the Eye and How We See."

Association of British Dispensing Opticians: "Conjunctival Cysts."

Clinical Ophthalmology: "A Novel Approach to Treatment of Conjunctival Cyst Ablation Using Atmospheric Low-Temperature Plasma."

Nvision Eye Centers: "Determining Safe Ways to Remove a Conjunctival Cyst." 

Plasma Science and Fusion Center: "What is Plasma?"

Saudi Journal of Ophthalmology: "Clinical study of histologically proven conjunctival cysts."

St. Joseph's Hospital: "Eyelid cyst removal."

StatPearls: "Anatomy, Head and Neck, Eye Conjunctiva."

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