A maxillary sinus retention cyst is a lesion that develops on the inside of the wall of the maxillary sinus. They are often dome-shaped, soft masses that usually develop on the bottom of the maxillary sinus.

Fortunately, a retention cyst of the maxillary sinus is a benign lesion, or non-cancerous. Still, if you have a maxillary sinus retention cyst, it’s a good idea to learn more about it and your treatment options.

What are the Maxillary Sinuses? Paranasal Sinuses

Your sinuses are connected hollow spaces inside the skull, located at several different places in the face. They are known as “paranasal sinuses” because they are all located around the nose and connected to the nasal cavity.

The different pairs of paranasal sinuses are named for the bones where they are located. The largest pair of sinuses are the maxillary sinuses on either side of the nose, near the cheekbones. The other pairs of sinuses are the:

  • Ethmoid sinuses: These are located near the eyes on either side of the bridge of the nose. They are small and there are six ethmoid sinuses in total.
  • Frontal sinuses: These are near the forehead above the eyes.
  • Sphenoid sinuses: These are deeper in the skull than the other pairs of sinuses, located behind the eyes.

When they’re healthy, the sinuses are lined with a thin layer of mucus, but a number of issues can cause problems with the sinuses.

Most Common Symptoms of a Maxillary Sinus Retention Cyst

Some studies have found a relatively high incidence of mucous retention cysts in the paranasal sinuses. In fact, retention cysts are a common incidental finding during imaging tests such as computed tomography scans (CT scans), seen in up to 13 percent of scans of CT and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging tests. An incidental finding means that the imaging test was ordered for another clinical purpose and the retention cyst was discovered by chance.

Even though maxillary sinus retention cysts are relatively common, many people don’t know they have them. In most cases, these cysts have no symptoms and are only discovered in an imaging exam.

Sometimes, however, a retention cyst in the maxillary sinus can cause an obstruction or it can grow very large, causing a number of symptoms. These may include:

  • Tingling or numbness
  • Pain or sensitivity
  • Chronic headaches
  • Nasal blockage
  • Dizziness

Typically, a maxillary sinus retention cyst is not dangerous, although there have been cases where a cyst has ruptured after head trauma.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A CT scan is generally enough to be able to diagnose a maxillary sinus retention cyst. If a lesion is discovered and it’s small, treatment may not be necessary. In fact, some maxillary sinus retention cysts will regress on their own. Your doctor may recommend monitoring it with periodic imaging.

However, if your cyst is large or you are experiencing symptoms, treatment may be recommended. If you need the cyst removed, your doctor will likely order a CT scan prior to a procedure. Then, the cyst may be removed through a minor endoscopic sinus surgery that includes either enucleation, which is removing the entire lesion without rupturing it, or using curettage, which removes the cyst with a special loop-shaped instrument. Most people report no pain or minimal discomfort following surgery.

About Maxillary Sinusitis

Sometimes, recurring or chronic sinus infections, or sinusitis of the maxillary sinuses, are related to the development of maxillary sinus retention cysts, although you can develop lesions without sinusitis.

How is Maxillary Sinusitis Diagnosed?

Infection of the maxillary sinuses are usually related to problems with drainage. This may be caused by an obstruction, inflammation, polyps, a deviated septum, or abnormally thick mucus caused by a virus. Maxillary sinusitis can even be caused by dental disease, and is sometimes first diagnosed by a dentist. Learn more about sinus pressure in the teeth, and the relationship between a tooth infection and a sinus infection.

Symptoms may  include: Maxillary Sinus Retention Cyst

  • Facial pain, especially over the cheek and upper teeth
  • Tenderness or pain in the back teeth
  • Headache
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Postnasal drip
  • Fever

During an exam, the doctor may tap along your cheeks, teeth, or gums to see if you have tenderness, pain or swelling. Your doctor may order a CT scan or other tests to confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment for Maxillary Sinusitis

Often, maxillary sinusitis can be treated with medication, nasal sprays, and decongestants but sometimes sinus surgery is necessary. Dr. Alen Cohen, is considered to be one of the area’s best sinus surgeons and performs in-office endoscopic sinus surgery frequently to great success. Learn more about what to expect with in-office balloon sinuplasty and how it can treat maxillary sinusitis.

Why Choose the Southern California Sinus Institute?

If you’re having sinus issues, it’s not something you should ignore. Often, they can become chronic or recurring and can drastically affect your quality of life. When you look for a sinus expert, you should go for the best.

Dr. Alen Cohen, MD, FACS, FARS, is a Board-Certified ENT/Head and Neck Surgeon and renowned expert in the field of Nasal & Sinus Surgery as well as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He is recognized as one of the Best Sinus Surgeons in Los Angeles and, as the founder of the Southern California Sinus Institute, he serves as director of a Stryker/Entellus designated National Sinus Center of Excellence. Sinus surgeons nationally seek him out for training because of his expertise and renown in the field.

At the Southern California Sinus Institute, Dr. Cohen uses state-of-the-art technology and the latest techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of all kinds of sinus problems, from the common to the complex.

If you’re experiencing sinus problems, contact us today for an appointment!