Have you or someone you love developed a ganglion cyst on the hand or wrist? These are the places ganglion cysts often show up, and while they can be unsightly, they're typically benign. Some disappear on their own, while others require professional medical treatment. If you want to know more about the ins and outs of these noncancerous lumps, or suspect you might have one, read on…
What is a ganglion cyst?
A ganglion cyst is a non-cancerous cyst that generally shows up on a tendon or joint. Most commonly, ganglion cysts appear on the wrist. Filled with a jelly-like fluid, this type of cyst is nothing to worry about, as it's harmless in terms of negatively impacting your health. And because some cysts don't even cause pain, you may not even know you have one. However, some can grow as large as an inch across, in which case, you'll be well aware of this rather strange cyst that may have seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
What causes a ganglion cyst to develop?
Ganglion cysts develop when fluid accumulates around a tendon or joint. This fluid build up occurs for one of the following reasons:
- Trauma to the area
- Injury to the area
If you're an athlete, a gymnast for example, you're likely to experience ganglion cysts near the wrist joint.
What are the symptoms of ganglion cysts?
Some ganglion cysts are small and cause no pain. Others are bigger and cause no pain. Still others are big or small and painful. They might grow in size or diminish with time. Symptoms range from one person to the next. Some people experience mild pain while others might experience more serious sensations if the cyst develops near a nerve. These symptoms look like:
- Pain - most ganglion cysts do not cause pain. If there is pain, it's typically due to the fact that the cyst is putting pressure on a nerve.
- Numbness and tingling sensations - When and if the cyst is resting on a nerve, tingling sensations or numbness is often the result.
- Mobility loss - In rare instances, a ganglion cyst can impede upon your range of motion. If there is any loss of mobility due to a cyst, it's time to see a doctor.
Risk factors for ganglion cysts
While causes of ganglion cysts are typically unknown, there are certain risk factors we know contribute to their formation. They are:
- Sex - When it come to sex, women develop ganglion cysts more often than men
- Age - The most common age range for those with ganglion cysts is between age 20 and 40. In other words, this isn't a condition of old age.
- Tendon or joint injury - If you have a joint or tendon that's suffered an injury in the past, it's more likely to develop a ganglion cyst in the area of injury.
- Osteoarthritis - those diagnosed with osteoarthritis have a higher risk of developing ganglion cysts on their joints and/or tendons.
Ganglion cyst diagnosis
If you experience a ganglion cyst that's causing you distress, you may want to come in for a diagnosis. Our expert surgeon Dr. Eubanks will determine the severity or harmless nature of your cyst depending upon whether or not it's causing you pain or discomfort. He'll examine the cyst, and ask questions about your medical history, how long you've had the lump, and what kind of discomfort (if any) it's causing you.
If necessary, an imaging test may be ordered. This might be an X-ray, an MRI, or an ultrasound. These tests are often used if the lump is under the skin and difficult to see with the naked eye. A fluid sample may also be taken.
Treatments for ganglion cysts
In many cases, these cysts diminish with time. In other cases, treatment is required. However, if the cyst is causing you little to no pain, you may wish to help the healing process along by doing the following:
- Rest - Take a rest from the repetitive movement that caused the cyst in the first place
- Immobilization - Regular activities that involve the area of the ganglion cyst can cause cysts to grow. This is where immobilization comes into play. Wearing a brace or splint on the area to remind you to give it a rest can be helpful. This is a temporary solution, not a long-term one. If the cyst doesn't decrease in size with temporary immobilization, further treatment may be necessary.
- Aspiration - On the other hand, your cyst may require aspiration if causing you discomfort or loss of function or mobility. Dr. Eubanks will aspirate the cyst as needed, which requires a syringe for fluid drainage.
- Surgery - In more severe cases, Dr. Eubanks may encourage surgical removal. This is the case if all the aforementioned treatments fail.
All in all, ganglion cysts are nothing to worry about. Do keep an eye on your lump, and come in for your consultation with Dr. Eubanks to eliminate any unnecessary worry, pain, or loss of mobility.
Our Surgeon Specializing in Ganglion Cyst
- Ryan Eubanks, DO
- Hand, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon
- Learn More