A thyroglossal duct cyst happens when your thyroid, a large gland in your neck that produces hormones, leaves behind extra cells while it’s forming during your development in the womb. These extra cells can become cysts.
This kind of cyst is congenital, meaning that they’re present in your neck from the time you’re born. In some cases, the cysts are so small that they don’t cause any symptoms. Large cysts, on the other hand, can prevent you from breathing or swallowing properly and may need to be removed.
The most visible symptom of a thyroglossal duct cyst is the presence of a lump in the middle of the front of your neck between your Adam’s apple and your chin. The lump usually moves when you swallow or stick your tongue out.
The lump may not become apparent until a few years or more after you’re born. In some cases, you may not even notice a lump or know the cyst is there until you have an infection that causes the cyst to swell.
Other common symptoms of a thyroglossal duct cyst include:
Redness and tenderness may only happen if the cyst gets infected.
Normally, your thyroid gland begins developing at the bottom of your tongue and travels through the thyroglossal duct to take its place in your neck, right below your larynx (also known as your voice box). Then, the thyroglossal duct vanishes before you’re born.
When the duct doesn’t go away completely, the cells from the leftover duct tissue can leave openings that become filled with pus, fluid, or gas. Eventually, these matter-filled pockets can become cysts.
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Your doctor may be able to tell if you have a thyroglossal duct cyst simply by examining a lump on your neck.
If your doctor suspects that you have a cyst, they may recommend one or more blood or imaging tests to look for the cyst in your throat and confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests can measure the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood, which indicates how well your thyroid is working.
Some imaging tests that may be used include:
Your doctor may also perform fine needle aspiration. In this test, your doctor inserts a needle into the cyst to extract cells that they can examine to confirm a diagnosis