The lumps Behind Ganglion Cysts
By Orthopaedic and Neurology Clinic
A ganglion cyst is a small sac of fluid that forms over a joint or tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone). Inside the cyst is a thick, sticky, clear, colorless, jellylike material. Depending on the size, cysts may feel firm or spongy. Ganglion cysts can be painful if they press on a nearby nerve. Their location can sometimes interfere with joint movement.
Ganglion cysts, also known as bible cysts, most commonly show up on the back of the hand at the wrist joint but they can also develop on the palm side of the wrist. They can also show up in other areas, but these are less common:
- The base of the fingers on the palm, where they appear as small pea-sized bumps
- The fingertip, just below the cuticle, where they are called mucous cysts
- The outside of the knee and ankle
- The top of the foot
What are some symptoms of Ganglion Cysts?
The most common symptoms of a ganglion cyst include a visible lump, discomfort, and pain. If the cyst is on your foot or ankle, you may feel discomfort when walking or wearing shoes. Clear symptoms includes the following:
- A soft bump or mass that changes size but doesn’t move.
- Swelling that may appear over time or suddenly.
- It may get smaller in size or even go away and come back.
- One large cyst or many smaller ones may develop, but they are usually connected by deeper tissue.
- Some degree of pain is possible, especially after acute or repetitive trauma, but many aren’t painful.
- Pain may be chronic and get worse with joint movement.
- When the cyst is connected to a tendon, you may feel a sense of weakness in the affected finger.
If it’s near a nerve, a ganglion cyst can sometimes cause:
- a loss of mobility
- a tingling sensation
Some ganglion cysts can become bigger or smaller over time.
“Ganglion cysts that develop at the end joint of a finger — also known as mucous cysts — are typically associated with arthritis in the finger joint, and are more common in women between the ages of 40 and 70 years.”
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What types of diagnosis?
We highly recommend seeking professional help instead of self diagnosis in order to find out the exact issue and to recover fast.
A physical exam is often all that is needed to diagnose a ganglion cyst.
- Our specialist may get further confirmation by using a syringe to draw out some of the fluid in the cyst (needle aspiration) or by using ultrasound. An ultrasound picture is made as sound waves bounce off of different tissues. It can determine whether the bump is fluid-filled (cystic) or if it is solid. Ultrasound can also detect whether there is an artery or blood vessel causing the lump.
- Our doctor may try to shine a light through the cyst to determine if it’s a solid mass or filled with fluid.
- MRI is used to see the wrist and is very useful for ganglions. This is to rule out other conditions, such as arthritis or a tumor. MRIs and ultrasounds also can locate hidden (occult) cysts.
Possible treatment methods?
If the cyst is causing pain or interfering with joint movement, our specialist may recommend:
- Immobilization. Because activity can cause the ganglion cyst to get larger, it may help to temporarily immobilize the area with a brace or splint. As the cyst shrinks, it may release the pressure on your nerves, relieving pain. Avoid long-term use of a brace or splint, which can cause the nearby muscles to weaken.
- Aspiration. In this procedure, our doctor uses a needle to drain the fluid from the cyst. The cyst may recur.
- Surgery. This may be an option if other approaches haven’t worked. During this procedure, our doctor removes the cyst and the stalk that attaches it to the joint or tendon. Rarely, the surgery can injure the surrounding nerves, blood vessels or tendons. And the cyst can recur, even after surgery.