Conjunctival cysts occur on the outer membrane of your eye. They typically only require treatment if they cause symptoms, like swelling or dryness.

What is a conjunctival cyst?

A conjunctival cyst is a cyst on the conjunctiva of your eye. The conjunctiva is that clear membrane that covers the white part of your eye. It also lines the inside of your eyelids. It has two main functions:

  • keeping your eye lubricated with tears and mucus
  • preventing germs from entering your eye

Your conjunctiva is especially vulnerable to injuries because it’s on your outer eye. Any type of blow to your eye or irritation can cause a conjunctival cyst to develop. This is a fluid-filled sac, but it can sometimes look more like a solid mass.

Read on to learn more about conjunctival cysts, including how to recognize them and whether they require treatment.

Conjunctival cysts don’t always cause symptoms, especially when they’re very small.

As they grow, a range of symptoms can occur, including:

  • the feeling that something’s stuck in your eye
  • swollen eyelid
  • problems closing your eye

If the cyst makes it hard to close your eye, you might also notice:

  • dryness
  • tearing
  • itchiness
  • a burning sensation

There are two main kinds of conjunctival cysts, and each has a different cause:

  • Retention cyst. This type results from a blocked duct, which causes a buildup of eye secretions. This buildup creates a cyst.
  • Inclusion cyst. This type happens when a piece of epithelium tissue (top layer) from your conjunctiva folds into the connective tissue of your conjunctiva.

Some people are born with conjunctival cysts. Injuries, surgery, exposure to an allergen (a substance that triggers an allergic response), or ongoing inflammation can also cause them.

Several other eye conditions look similar to conjunctival cysts, so it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor if you think you might have one.

They’ll likely start by doing a basic eye exam. This will help them rule out other eye conditions, such as:

Depending on what they see, they might do a biopsy on the cyst. This involves taking a small tissue sample and looking at it under a microscope. A biopsy is the only way to confirm that the cyst isn’t a sign of anything cancerous, including

Conjunctival cysts don’t always require treatment, especially if they aren’t causing any symptoms. In some cases, they go away on their own over time.

In the meantime, your doctor might suggest using lubricating eye drops to help with any dryness or discomfort. Steroid eye drops can also help to reduce inflammation and prevent the cyst from getting bigger. This is especially helpful if the cyst is due to an allergic reaction to something.

You can also have a conjunctival cyst removed through a minor surgical procedure. You’ll be given numbing eye drops and a local anesthetic beforehand.

Next, your doctor can either:

  • cut open the cyst and remove the contents
  • remove the entire cyst and seal off the affected blood vessels with heat

This is usually a quick outpatient procedure, meaning you’ll likely be able to go home right after your appointment. You might need someone to drive you home, however.

You’ll be given an antibiotic ointment to apply to your eye as you recover. You may also need to wear an eye patch for a few days.

While conjunctival cysts are sometimes uncomfortable, they’re usually easy to manage and treat. Some resolve on their own over time, but you can also have them removed by your doctor. Most people make a full recovery after a few days. Work with your doctor to determine the best treatment option.