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Ganglion Cyst - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Jan 28, 2020   -  4 min read


A ganglionic cyst is benign, fluid-filled lumps occur in joints or tendons. Often, it gets clear on its own without any intervention. In this article, we made clear about the definition, appearance, symptoms, causes, risk factors, diagnostic procedure, and treatment of ganglionic cyst.

Ganglion Cyst - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What Is a Ganglion Cyst?

A noncancerous growth that develops commonly on the tendons or joints of the wrists, hands, ankles, or feet is called a ganglion cyst. They look like small bumps on the skin surface. These cysts are usually oval or round in shape and are filled with a jelly-like fluid. They can be small as a pea or can grow as big as an inch or 2.5 centimeters. Larger ganglion cysts can cause pain if they press on a nerve passing nearby. And in some cases, their location interferes with the movement of the joint.

Symptomatic cysts are usually drained using a needle by your doctor, or it is surgically removed. But in cases where there are no symptoms, treatment is not necessary, and the cysts might go away on their own. It mostly affects people between the ages aged 15 and 40 years, and females are more susceptible than males.

What Does a Ganglion Cyst Look Like?

The characteristics of a ganglion cyst are:

What Are the Symptoms of a Ganglion Cyst?

These cysts are usually painless. But even a small cyst can cause pain when the cyst presses on a nearby nerve. Apart from pain, it can also result in tingling sensation, numbness, and muscle weakness.

If you see a lump near your wrist or ankle, it is best to consult your doctor. The doctor will diagnose if it is a ganglion cyst and if you need any treatment.

What Causes a Ganglion Cyst?

Doctors do not know the exact cause of a ganglion cyst. It looks like a small water balloon that grows out of your joint or the tendon lining. When you move your wrist or other joint, the cyst will bulge out in the tissue surrounds that joint or tendon. The cyst is filled with a thick fluid, which is similar to the fluid seen surrounding the joints and tendons.

Experts believe that the stress on joints due to overuse or trauma triggers the development of this cyst. It might also result from a synovial fluid leak from a joint into its surrounding area.

Risk Factors:

The following factors can increase the risk of you developing a ganglion cyst:

  1. Females are more susceptible than males.

  2. People between the ages of 15 and 40 years.

  3. People suffering from osteoarthritis develop ganglion cysts in the finger joints.

  4. Any joint or tendon injury increases the risk of developing a ganglion cysts.

  5. People who overuse certain joints, for example, female gymnasts.

How Is a Ganglion Cyst Diagnosed?

The doctor will apply pressure on the cyst and check if you feel any discomfort or pain. Then the doctor will hold a torch close to the cyst to see if the light shines through it. If the growth is filled with liquid, light passes through the cyst and it gets illuminated.

If needed, the doctor might suggest you get an X-ray, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), so that other conditions like arthritis or a tumor can be ruled out.

The diagnosis is then confirmed by drawing the fluid from the cyst using a needle. The fluid from a ganglion cyst will look thick and clear.

How Is a Ganglion Cyst Treated?

If your cyst is painless and is not compressing any nerve, then no treatment is required. But if the cyst is aesthetically disturbing or causing pain and discomfort, then the following treatment options are available:

  1. Immobilization - As activity makes the ganglion grow larger, the area is temporarily immobilized with a brace or splint. The cyst then shrinks and relieves pressure from the nearby nerve. Long-term immobilization is not recommended as it can damage or weaken the muscles in the joint.

  2. Aspiration - Here, the doctor drains the fluid from the cyst using a needle. But the cyst can still recur.

  3. Surgery - If no other treatment option is working, then the doctor removes the cyst and its attachment to the joint or tendon surgically. In some rare cases, this can injure the surrounding blood supply, muscles, and nerves.

To protect the area after surgery, follow these tips:

If you have pain and discomfort for more than a week or if the surgical site appears infected, then consult a doctor immediately.

Home Remedies:

  1. If the ganglion cyst is in your feet, then wear soft or open shoes to prevent it from rubbing the cyst.

  2. If you have pain, then medicines like Ibuprofen can help.

Ganglion Cyst and Hitting It With a Blunt Object:

Ganglion cysts were traditionally treated by hitting them with a book or other blunt objects. But it is being said that this method is neither safe nor effective. Avoid hitting the cyst, as the force can damage your joint or tendon or other nearby structures. Do not pop the cyst on your own as it can cause infection.

A ganglion cyst is not a serious health condition and it usually does not result in severe complications. But in case it is causing discomfort or limiting your range of motion, then it is best to consult an orthopedician and traumatologist online now. The doctor will tell you the best treatment option for you. The risk of the cyst forming again is high after surgical removal also, as it leaves a scar.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Best Method to Cure a Ganglion Cyst?

The following are the best methods to cure a ganglion cyst:
- Strict immobilization of the affected limb. The reason behind this is that physical activity can induce ganglion cyst to become larger.
- Surgical Aspiration. In this procedure, the doctor usually uses a needle or catheter to drain the fluid present inside the cyst.
If the above-stated approaches do not work, then surgical removal is the final choice of treatment.


Do Ganglion Cysts Resolve on Their Own Without Any Treatment?

In most affected people, ganglion cysts get cured by themselves without any need for medical treatment. But, if they do not resolve on their own, you can go for surgery and drain the cyst with a needle.


How Long Does a Ganglion Cyst Usually Take to Go Away?

In most people, ganglion cysts go away without any proper medical treatment. On the other hand, in some people, the cysts reappear despite giving proper treatment. Ganglion cysts might take a long time, about 12 to 18 months, to disappear completely.


Can I Massage a Ganglion Cyst?

Physical activity of any type often causes ganglion to develop into larger sizes. This results in an increase of pressure on the nerves surrounding the ganglion cyst. However, gentle, cautious, and frequent massage over the ganglion cyst can help move fluid out of the sac. This encourages the cyst to decrease in size.


What Is the Reason for a Painful Ganglion Cyst?

The exact cause of ganglion cysts is not known till date. The reason for the pain that is associated with a ganglion cyst is that the growth of ganglion cysts are primarily on nerves by stretching them. As we know that nerves are sensitive structures and can sense pain and temperature, the people affected by ganglion cysts complain of extreme pain.


What Will Happen When a Ganglion Cyst Bursts Internally Due to an Unknown Cause?

Some ganglion cysts are cancerous in nature, and in those cases, early treatment is vital to avoid complications. If ganglion cysts are left untreated, benign cysts can lead to serious complications such as infection. The infected cyst can rupture, which is the most common complication. If the abscess bursts inside the body cavity, there is a higher risk of blood poisoning, known as septicemia.


Which Speciality Doctor Can Remove Ganglion Cysts?

A surgeon is a doctor who is specialized in removing ganglion cysts. Ganglion cyst removal is usually a simple outpatient procedure that can be performed under local or general anesthesia depending on the patient’s overall health status.


Can Heat or Cold Help in Relieving Ganglion Cyst?

Yes, regular usage of warm compresses over the region of a ganglion cyst can significantly increase blood circulation to that region and promote adequate fluid drainage. Warm compresses, however, will not prevent the occurrence of a ganglion cyst and its growth.


Can I Pop My Ganglion Cyst?

No, never ever try to pop your ganglion cyst by puncturing it with a needle or cutting it with a sharp tool. It is not an effective method in curing it, and it can also lead to infection. It will cause an increased risk of recurrence. Again never strike your cyst with any heavy object.


Does Ganglion Cysts Feel Hard Like a Bone?

The fluid-filled sac of the ganglion cyst might sometimes arise from a joint or tendon sheath. These cysts are usually noted to be very small, or they can enlarge. They are not usually cancerous, but they tend to arise as a single cyst or even as a cyst with multiple lobes. Some of these cysts feel quite hard and are commonly mistaken for a bony prominence.


Can a Ganglion Cyst Last for Longer Periods?

In most ganglion cysts, they usually go away by themselves without any need for medical treatment. But, if the cysts break internally or become infected, they get complicated and last for a longer period of time.


Is Ganglion Cyst Hereditary?

The commonly noted cause of these cysts is a result of trauma or joint or tendon irritation. They are found in almost all age groups. In some studies, they have also been noted to run in families.


What Are the Symptoms Associated With a Spinal Cyst?

The symptoms associated with spinal cysts depend primarily on the size and location of the cyst. Symptoms are noted to be similar to that of spinal stenosis, which includes backache. Radicular pain unilaterally or bilaterally.


How Does a Ganglion Cyst Appear Like on an MRI?

In a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure, the ganglion cyst is usually seen as a unilocular or multilocular rounded or a lobular fluid mass, usually present adjacent to any joint tendon sheath.


Should I Be Worried About My Ganglion Cyst?

A ganglion cyst usually does not require any emergency treatment unless the affected individual has experienced any significant trauma. A routine checkup by either your family doctor or an orthopedist is often more than enough. Elective surgery can be done if symptoms do not resolve with proper medical management.


How Will I Know If My Ganglion Cyst Is Getting Serious?

If the ganglion cyst has started to develop exactly on top of a tendon, it may cause symptoms like weakness, numbness, or tingling of the affected finger. If these symptoms do not resolve, you should be concerned, and you may consult an orthopedist.


What Is the Definitive Cure of a Ganglion Cyst?

It can be usually treated with pain medications and anti-inflammatory medicines at the early stages of the disease. But, when the symptoms do not resolve the surgical removal of the ganglion cyst still tends to be the definitive cure.


Is It Possible to Get Rid of a Ganglion Cyst Naturally?

Regular use of warm compress on the ganglion cyst, limiting the particular joint’s mobility, and wearing loose shoes are the various natural ways to avoid complications of a ganglion cyst. However, natural methods can not prevent the occurrence of the cyst.


What Is the Ganglion Cyst That Occurs on the Foot Called As?

Ganglion cysts are also being termed as a synovial cyst, Gideon's disease, Olamide's cyst, Bible cyst, and a Bible bump when they occur at the foot.


How Long Should I Rest After a Ganglion Cyst Surgery?

You can go home the same day as the procedure is done. The surgical wound site usually heals in a period of two to six weeks following your surgery date. However, following the surgery, you can experience new cysts that can develop after a few years.


Do the Doctors Use Anesthesia for Ganglion Cyst Surgery?

Ganglion cyst removal is an outpatient procedure, and it is performed under local or general anesthesia depending on the patient’s overall health status. In healthy and young patients, the procedure is usually done on local anesthesia, but if the patient has severe comorbidities, he or she might need general anesthesia.


Can I Go Back to Work Immediately After Ganglion Cyst Surgery?

You may not be able to go to work on the same day, but you can go back to work one or two days after surgery. It also depends on factors such as the type of work you do and how your overall health feels like.


Is a Ganglion Cyst Surgery Painful?

Since ganglion cyst removal is a minor surgical procedure, complications are quite severe and rare. But rarely people experience symptoms like permanent stiffness and pain post-surgery. It can be treated with pain relievers.

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Last reviewed at:
28 Jan 2020  -  4 min read




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