An Overview of Urachal Cyst

In This Article
Table of Contents

A urachal cyst is a collection of tissue and fluid between the bladder and the belly button. It forms in the remnants of the urachus, a structure that is normally present in a fetus, but typically is closed off and vanishes before birth. However, a urachal cyst or sinus can remain in some individuals.

You may live comfortably with a urachal cyst your entire life with no complications, but in some people it can result in drainage or additional medical problems. If a urachal cyst becomes infected, you could experience potentially life-threatening symptoms which must be treated.

Symptoms

The mere presence of a urachal cyst does not result in or cause any symptoms. There are symptoms associated with an infected urachal cyst which causes abdominal pain, fever, abdominal masses, pain or burning with urination, frequent urinary tract infections, and blood in the urine.

Urachal cyst infections are most commonly seen in children 2 to 4 years old.

A severe infection of the urachal cyst also causes more widespread symptoms including areas of abdominal redness and swelling, extreme fatigue, vomiting, and severe abdominal pain.

Even rarer instances of urachal cysts may cause drainage of urine from the belly button. Drainage will resemble a constantly moist belly button. This moisture will look like a yellow fluid which appears to stem from a skin fold in the abdominal area. If not cleaned frequently, this moisture will cause skin reddening and often develops a foul odor. This drainage is the result of issues with the urachal sinus, which is the cavity connecting the bladder and the belly button. Excess drainage may cause poor healing of the umbilical cord after birth.

Causes

During the first trimester of pregnancy, the urachus is a channel between the fetus's bladder and umbilical cord (which will become the belly button after birth), allowing urine to drain from the fetus. By the third trimester the urachal channel has usually sealed off and it becomes the medial umbilical ligament. When this structure remains open, a urachal cyst or other abnormalities can result.

A urachal cyst is a congenital condition, meaning it is present at birth. The cause of a urachal cyst is largely unknown, as there is no apparent genetic source. Some research points toward the abnormal presence of a urachal cyst being the result of incomplete development of the urachal area. While this is a rare developmental condition, there could be additional medical problems resulting from developmental delays or defects.

There are several types of urachal abnormalities which may cause symptoms after birth. A patent urachus results when a connection between the bladder and belly button remain. A urachal sinus occurs when the connection between the belly button and the rest of the abdominal area did not seal off. A diverticulum results from a lack of closure between the belly button and the bladder.

Each type of urachal abnormality may go unnoticed for years and cause no discomfort or symptoms. Conversely, each of these defects may become infected and cause any variety of symptoms requiring diagnosis and treatment.

A urachal cyst or other urachus remnant is present in about 1 percent of the population.

Diagnosis

The presence of a urachal cyst is confirmed through imaging techniques include ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) scans. These techniques allow a medical professional to analyze the abdominal cavity and determine whether a cyst is present and problematic.

If your doctor confirms the presence of a urachal cyst and you are also experiencing symptoms which indicate a possible infection, a more thorough evaluation will be completed. An infected urachal cyst, sometimes called a urachal abscess, requires laboratory testing, a physical evaluation, and medical history to be completed before administering any treatment.

Treatment

If you have a confirmed urachal cyst which is not causing any problems or demonstrating signs of infection, there is no course of action necessary.

Often times, treatment is urgent in instances of an infected urachal cyst. Antibiotics are very important in eliminating the infection from the cyst. Most infections are treated by oral antibiotics (by mouth), but in cases of severe infection, the medication must be given through the vein for immediate use.

In certain cases of an infected urachal cyst, surgical removal is recommended to prevent future infections and the rare possibility of developing cancer. These treatment options are best suited for individuals with urachal cysts causing excessive draining, irritation, discomfort, and/or infection.

A draining urachal sinus can be excised to remove it and close it off. This may be done through a small incision of the belly button or it can be done as a laparoscopic surgery.

In some instances, urachal abnormalities which do not result in infection resolve without treatment. Your doctor will be able to inform you of the likelihood of this occurring and which treatment methods are the best for your situation.

A Word From Verywell

You might live your entire life without experiencing any issues resulting from the presence of a urachal cyst. Some people will experience an infection to the urachal cyst or other urachal structures, which must be addressed. By seeking appropriate medical attention to treat urachal infections, you stand to potentially prevent further issues from ever developing. This is commonly the case when doctors remove the urachal cyst.

While there are many conventional and alternative pain management techniques at your disposal, it is important to realize a new onset of moderate to severe abdominal pain should not be self-treated. Persistent abdominal pain should always be brought to the attention of your medical doctor and excruciating abdominal pain warrants a call to emergency medical services. This will allow you to receive the appropriate treatment to manage symptoms of infection and prevent future complications related to your urachal abnormalities.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.