A ganglion cyst is a noncancerous lump that develops on a joint. It can appear suddenly, change in size and shape rapidly, and swell with activity.
Discovering that you have a ganglion cyst can be startling. Although they’re almost always harmless, some ganglion cysts can press on nerves, cause pain, limit mobility, and be a source of embarrassment.
If you have a bothersome ganglion cyst, Kristopher Downing, MD, & James Andry, MD can diagnose and treat it. Our team at Upper Extremity Specialists, of Ortho 1 Medical Group, offers top-tier care for wrist and hand issues, including ganglion cysts.
All about ganglion cysts
A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled sac that emerges from a joint. It grows from the tissues of your joint, and creates a balloon that attaches to the joint by a stalk. It’s filled with a thick, viscous fluid.
While ganglion cysts can form on almost any joint, they’re most common on the hands and wrists. Most people with ganglion cysts get them on the back of one wrist, but they may also appear along the joints of the fingers.
Anyone can get a ganglion cyst, and it’s not clear why they develop. Your risk of getting one may be higher if:
- You’re between the ages of 15-40
- You’re female
- Your hobbies or occupation require repetitive wrist stress
- You have arthritis in your hands
Ganglion cysts evolve quickly. They can appear seemingly out of nowhere, then disappear rapidly. They can also change in size. Ganglions may grow larger with activity and shrink when you rest.
Despite their rapid development and evolution, ganglion cysts are usually harmless. They aren’t cancerous, and they may not require treatment if you don’t notice any bothersome symptoms. In fact, many ganglion cysts disappear on their own over time.
Treatment options for a ganglion cyst
The most obvious symptom of a ganglion cyst is a visible lump under your skin. For many people, this is their only symptom. However, some ganglion cysts can squeeze the nerves in the affected joint, causing pain, tingling, and weakness.
If you have pain or other symptoms due to a ganglion cyst, it might be time to consider treatment to remove the cyst. Even if your cyst doesn’t cause other symptoms, you may want treatment due to its appearance.
After examining your cyst, Dr. Downing works with you to form a treatment plan. Small cysts may improve with a combination of watchful waiting and temporary immobilization with a splint.
For more severe cysts, Dr. Downing may recommend aspiration or surgery. Aspiration involves puncturing the cyst with a needle and draining the fluid. While aspiration can be effective, it doesn’t remove the cyst’s stalk, so it’s possible that the cyst will fill with fluid again in the future.
Surgery can be a more effective treatment method, and it reduces the chances that the ganglion cyst will return. In this outpatient procedure, Dr. Downing removes both the cyst and its stalk. Recovery typically takes 2-6 weeks following surgery.
You don’t have to live with a painful, unsightly ganglion cyst. Get a thorough evaluation and a customized treatment plan by booking an appointment online or over the phone with Upper Extremity Specialists today.