Tarlov cysts (also known as meningeal or perineurial cysts) occur on weakened areas of spinal nerve roots. These cysts balloon out to form sac-like structures along the wall of the nerve. The pressure of a growing cyst on the spinal nerves can cause pain and a number of debilitating symptoms. Though Tarlov cysts most often occur in the sacral area — the group of bones above the tailbone — they can occur anywhere on the spine.
Not all Tarlov cysts are symptomatic, but when they are, the symptoms can be severe. The cysts can grow and compress nerves which can cause damage and affect the function of the nerves. People with symptoms may experience:
- A feeling similar to “sitting on a rock”
- Buttock pain
- Numbness or tingling in the legs or feet
- Pain in the rectal or genital area
- Painful lump in the sacrum
- Persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD)
- Trouble emptying the bladder or the constant urge to empty the bladder
If the Tarlov cyst is leaking, you may experience:
- Increased pain
- Ringing in the ears
Many patients with Tarlov cysts have minimal or only mild symptoms. It’s not uncommon to have flare-ups where symptoms get worse for a period and then get better. For persistent, disabling symptoms, surgery is often required.