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What is an Adrenal Cyst?

An adrenal cyst is a rare, fluid-filled sac located on the adrenal gland, often discovered incidentally during imaging tests. While typically benign, these cysts can sometimes cause discomfort or hormonal imbalances. Understanding their nature and potential impact on health is crucial. Curious about how adrenal cysts might affect you? Dive deeper into the intricacies of these hidden anomalies.
A. Ribken
A. Ribken

An adrenal cyst is a growth that appears on the adrenal gland. It is very rare, affecting only one or two people in 10,000. Most adrenal cysts are found incidentally, or by accident, when a patient is examined for other problems. The majority of people who are diagnosed with adrenal gland cysts are female, and although a cyst on the adrenal gland can occur at any age, most of them are found in patients between 30 and 60 years of age.

There are two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney. The adrenal gland secretes hormones that help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, and sweating. Other hormones secreted by the adrenal glands include corticosteroids, which play a part in regulating the levels of salt in the body, and testosterone. They are regulated by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus.

The adrenal gland secretes hormones that help regulate sweating.
The adrenal gland secretes hormones that help regulate sweating.

There are four types of adrenal cysts. The majority of cysts are endothelial cysts, which are benign, usually cause no symptoms and are similar to the less common epithelial cysts. Approximately 40% of the adrenal cysts found are considered pseudocysts, and these can become malignant. The fourth type of adrenal cyst is a parasitic cyst. This rare cyst is caused by the larvae from the species Echinococcus granulosus.

Symptoms of large adrenal cysts may include back pain.
Symptoms of large adrenal cysts may include back pain.

A benign cyst usually causes no symptoms, although if it becomes large in size, it can cause pain in the abdomen or back. Most adrenal cysts are found when other tests, such as x-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans, are performed—they would otherwise go undetected. A symptomatic cyst may affect hormone levels, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Treatment for this type of cyst usually consists of watchful waiting, with regular examinations such as CT scans and blood tests being conducted to observe the growth pattern and hormonal changes. The other option is surgical removal, which can be done laparoscopically, or through small incisions using an long, thin instrument equipped with a tiny camera. Normally, surgery is not required unless the cyst affects the hormonal balance of the body or causes pain due to its size.

Blood tests should be conducted to monitor growth of adrenal cysts.
Blood tests should be conducted to monitor growth of adrenal cysts.

Most people with an adrenal gland cyst are unaware that they have one unless it is seen while testing for other medical problems. Since the majority of cysts do not cause any physical symptoms, a conservative approach to treatment is followed. The cause of adrenal gland cysts is not yet known, although it is believed heredity plays a part.

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Discussion Comments


I have a cyst on my adrenal gland and the doctor said not to worry about it. Shouldn't it be removed?


@Briwil: I'm not sure if this will help you, but so long as you are fairly healthy otherwise, you will be more than fine. A lot of what happens to a person is because of the power of their own mind. Think and feel that the operation will go smoothly/quickly and that you will heal very fast and perfectly! Or whatever feels good to you.

The mind is a very powerful thing and the future is the reincarnation (or recreation) of your thoughts. Download some positive affirmations from iTunes by Louise Hay or whomever you would feel comfortable listening too. Trust me, it works.


I'm a 23 year old women who is facing surgery to remove a adrenal cyst on my right side. It has molded around my liver and moved my organs around. It is actively bleeding and it has developed a hard mass inside of it. They are taking my adrenal gland and part of my right kidney with it. I'm so scared because I am a single mom with three kids.


I'm a 35 year old woman. I discovered that I had an adrenal cyst in January. I was having a lot of right-side abdominal pain and nausea.

For about two years prior to going to the ER, I had been having extreme panic attacks, shortness of breath. I'm naturally an anxious person but this was out of the ordinary. They did a CT of my abdomen and found a 12 cm cyst. They initially thought it originated from my liver and contemplated whether it was parasitic in nature, which completely freaked me out, but after several radiologists conferred, they told me it was coming from my adrenal gland. It was drained of about 600 mL of fluid by an interventional radiologist and deemed benign, thankfully. But it grew back within a few weeks to about 8 cm and was causing pain, nausea and panic attacks again.

After seeing an endocrinologist, who was completely dismissive of any of my concerns (all of my labs were normal--24 hour urine, cortisol, CBC, etc.), I opted to have it drained again. I talked to the same interventional radiologist and he said he would leave a catheter in for a few days this time, injecting it daily with alcohol to (hopefully) make the sides stick together -- called sclerosing -- so that it won't refill again. I am doing this now. I still have the catheter in and it's been five days. The output is getting less and less and it probably will be taken out tomorrow.

To me, the risks of infection are less concerning than having this thing inside of me that causes me so much pain and discomfort. I really hope it goes away. If it doesn't, the next step is laparoscopic surgery.


I just went to to the emergency room last night for stomach pain. They ran blood work, did a urine sample, CT scan, sonogram and and EKG. They discovered a kidney stone and a small cyst on my adrenal gland. The doctor acted like nothing was wrong and I was sent home. I am concerned now. I guess I will ask my doctor.


I have an adrenal cyst, no symptoms, just found it when they did other scans. It's been there for 10 years, maybe more, I have it scanned every couple of years but it doesn't change; they say it's benign. I saw the surgeons at the Toronto cancer hospital, so I guess they know from experience.

I won't get surgery unless I have to. They said they would remove the whole adrenal gland with it, which could lead to other problems, like diabetes, so leave it alone if you can!


For the past four years, I've had severe pain on my left side above my hip, in the front and back. A few years ago, after undergoing many tests, they found that I have an adrenal cyst on my left kidney. Last year, my cyst was 6 inches. This year, after going to the hospital for major abdominal pain, undergoing many tests, and waiting over nine hours, it was concluded that my problem wasn't an emergency. They did, however, discover that the adrenal cyst has grown to 7 inches. Now my surgeon and doctors have constantly told me that the cyst isn't causing my intense pain, but I'm not convinced!

I go to see my surgeon again today, and I'm hoping he will get this thing out of me! I'll try to keep you posted.


I was diagnosed with adrenal cysts on both my kidneys, and at the same time, I was diagnosed with aggressive clear cell endometrial cancer.

I'm concerned because my oncologist isn't concerned at all about them, I guess it's up to me to find the help I need for that. One question is, do I go to a urologist, or an endocrinologist? Do I wait till the cancer treatments are over (soon hopefully), or should I go now? What are your thoughts?


I was diagnosed today. They believe it's a cyst, but could be a benign tumor. They caught it by accident during a CT scan to see if I had kidney stones. No matter what, it's benign. I'm getting an MRI scan in six months to see if it grows. I'm sick of this pain and odor in my urine!


I went to an ultrasound and they found something like I have a cyst in my liver. They sent me to have a CT scan. My doctor said it is a benign cyst. How do they know it is benign since I have not had a biopsy? Thank you if you could help me understand.


What type of surgeon or doctor performs the cyst removal surgery?


I just underwent a left laparoscopic adrenalectomy for a 7.5 cm (large) mass that was diagnosed as a cyst on biopsy. I'm two weeks post op without any issues. Laparoscopic is the way to go. One night in the hospital and done.


I was diagnosed at 15 and no one ever did anything! I have high levels of the male hormone DHEA! I am a woman and suffer from major hormone changes, such as facial and body hair, and mood swings. I am starting to have pain in my upper abdomen and there isn't a damn thing I can do because I have no health insurance!

I suffer from high blood pressure and polycystic ovarian disease and am very overweight. I was told just the other day that it's still there and they blew it off like it was no big problem! I am in agony and it stinks being poor!


I am 45 years old and was just diagnosed with an adrenal cyst. I have been treated for high blood pressure for about six years. I am currently on seven high blood pressure medications and continue to have high blood pressure. I have had three "episodes" which were called heart attacks. Sky high blood pressure, tingling sensation starting in my armpit and slowly moving down my arm.

After overnight observations the first and second time, the EKGs and blood work say I had a heart attack. Both times I had a heart catheterization done and both times they were normal, no blockages – normal. The third time I started feeling like I was going down that road again, I called my doctor and saw him in the office. They did five or six EKGs and they were not normal. He decided to send me straight to the cardiologist, instead of the ER. My cardiologist finally started to get to the bottom of what is going on.

He tried some different medications, but no change. He did some blood work and didn't find anything. He ordered a stress test and it was normal. He also ordered a CT of my heart to check for calcium/plaque. Out of 100 percent, I had 2.61 percent calcium. He started me on a new med and did blood work before I started the med and after and in the meantime I had a CT with dye for my kidneys, liver and abdomen.

Finally, they found a cyst on my right adrenal gland. While I am somewhat relieved to have an answer to the craziness I have been going through, it does concern me as well. Feeling optimistic about it, though.


In July of last year I found out after going to the doctor for a pain in my side that I had a cyst as large as a grapefruit. At first, doctors were baffled. They could not figure out how a healthy, non-smoking, 23 year old woman could have a cyst that large. First it was believed to be part of my liver since that was all they could see from CT scan and x-ray scans.

After being observed for a week in the hospital, I had surgery. The surgery was eight hours long. During surgery doctors discovered the cyst was not a part of my liver but of the adrenal gland. It had also grown to destroy my spleen, pancreas tail and adrenal gland.

The first days after surgery were easy with all of the medication I was under. Once they took me off of the after surgery meds the pain started. Most of the pain was from the inability to have a bowel movement due to the anesthesia. I had 38 staples inserted across my stomach.

The next weeks were hard for me because of the extreme nausea and pain I experienced. I was sent home with a prescription of percs but it just made my nausea 10 times worse, especially at night. After switching to a lower dosage of pain medication and another to minimize my stomach acids, my nausea eased.

My incision was so hard to get used to. I did not have the energy to lift my back up to walk straight. My center core was damaged and it took almost two months to be able to walk straight again. The incision also started to leak out a dark red blood, but I was told it was normal and just excess blood from the surgery. My staples remained for a month, constantly leaking the dark blood. When it was done healing, all that was left is a "railroad" scar across my stomach.

The experience was scary but it changed my life. Everything happens for a reason and this certainly was an eye opener. Before, I thought I was an invincible typical young adult, but found that is not the case.

It has been almost a year now and I feel fantastic. I still get paranoid when I get any pain, especially along my incision, but that is the only way to stay aware.

Hope my story helps to those who are going through the same thing. Good luck!


My 82 year old mother has an adrenal cyst on one of her adrenal glands. She was monitored for five years and the cyst did not grow, so the doctors decided to leave it.

She would like to get it removed though since she has hot flashes 24/7, non-stop, and we believe it is because of the cyst. Does anyone know where I could find info on the type of surgery, risks, doctors in Alberta, Canada, etc on this type of 'problem'? Would greatly appreciate any help. Thank you.


OK, so my daughter recently found out that she's got an adrenal cyst, and the both of us are getting really scared about it.

This is such a rare condition, it seems crazy that she could get it -- she's always been so healthy, no problems, not even cavities. But she was just diagnosed last week, after months of confusion, so now we're kind of glad to know what it is, but still scared, since it is such a rare condition.

Do you know if there are any adrenal support groups or something like that? We're both desperate for information and to talk to someone else who's been through this. Do you have any information?


I knew a woman from my office who was having surgery for a liver cyst, since she had been showing all the liver cyst symptoms -- you know, abdominal pain, distention, all that -- but when they actually got in there, it turned out that she didn't have a cyst on her liver.

Instead she had an adrenal cyst. Unfortunately, they weren't prepared to remove it that day (I guess that adrenal surgery is different than liver surgery?), so she had to go back a few months later to undergo another surgery to remove the adrenal cyst.

Luckily, they were able to remove it completely and she's had no problems since, but I can only imagine how disappointing it must be to wake up from surgery and realize that the whole thing was a bust. I guess it's better than some of the other surgical complications you could get, but still!

I'm just glad that I've never had to deal with anything like that...


Wow -- that sounds really scary. I have to say, I'm really glad that I'm not showing any adrenal symptoms, because I would be totally freaked out that I had an adrenal cyst, or even an adrenal tumor.

Really nicely written article though -- it laid an extremely scary topic out in easy to understand terms. If I did have an adrenal cyst, I would find this article very helpful.

Good work.

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