Ganglion Cysts – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Ganglion cysts are benign, fluid filled bumps that can develop along the tendons or joints of your hands, wrists of feet. A cyst can develop quickly or over time. Often times they disappear on their own. If you have a lot of pain or difficulty moving the area you may need treatment.

The symptoms include lumps near your finger joints or wrist about 3 centimeters around. Size varies depending on how much the area moves. The size increases with mobility of the area. Ganglion cysts are usually painless but sometimes they but pressure on the nerves around a joint and can cause pain, weakness or numbness.

It is not known what causes ganglion cysts. They grow out of tissue around a joint or a tendon. They are filled with a sticky like substance. They are more common in women. Repetitive movement of your hand or wrist may increase your risk of getting one. Osteoarthritis can also increase your risk because it increases the fluid around the joints which can then leak and accumulate into a cyst. In addition, any injury to your feet or hands can increase your risk of getting a cyst.

A physical examination and or an x-ray, ultrasound or MRI confirms the existence of a ganglion cyst. Treatment may include aspiration of the fluid from the cyst. Unfortunately, 80% of the time they reoccur. Immobilization of the area with a brace or splint is sometimes done and the cyst will go down on its own relieving the pressure and pain on your nerves.

Sometimes after repeated aspirations of the fluid the cyst will disappear. Sometimes along with aspiration of the fluid you may receive a steroid injection as well to decrease the inflammation.

If you have significant pain and the cyst will not go away, your doctor may recommend surgery. The procedure is usually a same day procedure. The incision will depend on the size of the cyst. The surgeon will cut out the cyst and the stalk that it comes from as well as a small amount of surrounding tissue.

After surgery you will go home. You need to keep the area elevated for a couple days to minimize swelling. You can expect some swelling and tenderness for two to six weeks. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen may be suggested for discomfort and inflammation.

At home you will need to change the dressing and apply an antibiotic ointment on the area. Watch for signs and symptom or infection such as drainage, redness, increased swelling or fever.

You many need some physical therapy for the surgical area to get good range of motion back. In rare circumstances, injury to blood vessels, nerves or tendons can occur. This could leave you with weakness, numbness or restricted range of motion. Only you and our doctor can decide what the best course for you will be.