Thyroglossal Cyst

A thyroglossal cyst is an abnormal fluid-filled sac in the upper part of the neck. It forms before birth (congenital), during the development of the thyroid gland. This gland begins as a small group of cells at the very back of the base of your tongue. As these cells grow to form your thyroid gland, they begin to move down your neck through a canal called the thyroglossal duct. The thyroid gland moves down the thyroglossal duct until it arrives in its final place low in the neck, just above your breast bone. The thyroglossal duct normally disappears. However, sometimes it does not close completely and leaves an open space that may fill up with fluid or a thick mucus-like material, creating a thyroglossal cyst.

Thyroglossal cysts usually are discovered in patients who are between the ages of 2 to 15 years old. They are more prevalent in males. Small cysts often are not detected. It is common for thyroglossal cysts to become infected.


Symptoms of thyroglossal cysts may include:

  • A round lump in the front and middle part of the neck. The lump may be soft or hard and, if infected, painful and red. The lump will move up and down when you swallow or stick out your tongue.

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing (very large cysts).

  • Mucus may seep from a small opening in the skin (fistula) near the lump.


To diagnose a thyroglossal cyst, your caregiver may perform the following exams:

  • Physical exam. Your care giver may feel your throat and ask you to swallow and stick out your tongue.

  • Imaging exams. These can include the following tests:

  • A computerized X-ray scan (CT scan) to examine the cyst and surrounding tissue.

  • An exam that uses sound waves to create a picture of the cyst (ultrasonography).


Treatment options for thyroglossal cyst include:

  • Antibiotic medicine to treat a bacterial infection of a thyroglossal cyst. This also may shrink the size of the cyst.

  • Surgery to remove thyroglossal cyst. Surgery may be used as treatment when you have:

  • Recurrent infections.

  • Breathing or swallowing difficulties because of the size of the cyst.

  • Cosmetic reasons for doing so.