What Are Ganglion Cysts?
Ganglion cysts are swollen, fluid-filled lumps below the skin. A ganglion cyst usually develops on your hand, wrist or foot. It can develop in other places such as a finger or knee. The cyst’s gel-like fluid comes from a nearby joint or tendon.
Ganglion cysts vary in size. They may get smaller, larger or go away and come back. This is one of the most common types of benign (noncancerous) soft-tissue masses.
The cause of ganglion cysts is unknown. They may arise from an injury or from joint or tendon irritation and overuse.
Ganglion cysts are sometimes painful. Symptoms include:
- A noticeable lump – Often the only symptom experienced
- Tingling or burning – Indicates that the cyst is touching a nerve
- Dull pain or ache – May mean that the cyst is pressing against a tendon or joint
- Difficulty wearing shoes – Caused by irritation between the lump and your shoes
Your doctor may have a specialist, such as a foot and ankle surgeon examine the cyst. If it’s a ganglion cyst, it’s easily visible. When the lump is pressed a certain way, it should move freely beneath your skin. The surgeon may shine a light through the cyst or remove fluid for testing. Tests may include X-rays or other imaging.
Treatment options include:
- Closely watching the cyst – If it’s not painful and you can use the affected limb or joint, you may not need treatment.
- Changing your footwear – Your doctor may recommend shoes that don’t rub against or irritate the cyst. Placing a liner or pad in your shoe can help reduce pressure.
- Aspiration and injection – This simple procedure, usually done in an office setting, involves draining fluid and injecting a steroid medication. It may take more than one session. Sometimes, a cyst will return.
- Surgery – If problems persist, a surgeon may need to remove the cyst. Doctors can usually use arthroscopic (minimally invasive) surgery. This involves small cuts and tiny, camera-guided instruments. Some conditions, such as a cyst in unusual locations on the hand or wrist, may require open surgery. Surgical procedures have good outcomes, although the cyst may come back.
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