What is a Ganglion Cyst?

If you’ve noticed an abnormal lump on your hand, it may be a ganglion cyst. Ganglion cysts are benign lumps that often occur along the tendons or joints in the hand.

Although not cancerous, these lumps can be painful and unsightly. When the ganglion cyst begins to cause problems and does not heal on its own, a physician should determine the best treatment for the condition.

Ganglion cysts vary in size. A small ganglion cyst can be the size of a pea, whereas larger ones might measure about an inch in diameter. Ganglion cysts are typically oval-shaped or round and filled with a jelly-like fluid. They may get smaller or larger, or even disappear completely, only to reappear later.

While it is most common to have a ganglion cyst in the hands or wrist, there are some cases where they can form in the ankles and feet as well.

What are the Symptoms of a Ganglion Cyst?

Some symptoms of a ganglion cyst include:

  • A noticeable lump
  • A burning or tingling sensation, caused when the cyst touches a nerve
  • Dull ache or pain, indicating that the cyst is pressing against a joint or tendon
  • Difficulty wearing shoes due to irritation

How Can a Ganglion Cyst Be Treated?

Often, ganglion cysts are painless, requiring no treatment. A physician will monitor the ganglion cyst to determine if treatment is necessary.

Treatment may include:

  • Wearing a brace
    • To immobilize the wrist and release pressure
  • Aspiration
    • A physician will use a needle to drain the cyst
  • Surgically removing the cyst
    • A physician may recommend surgery if your symptoms are not relieved by nonsurgical methods, or if the ganglion returns after aspiration.

During surgery, your surgeon will remove the cyst and the stalk attaching it to the tendon or joint. This is typically an outpatient procedure and patients return home later the same day.

What is Recovery Like After Ganglion Cyst Surgery?

At first, the site may feel uncomfortable, tender, or swollen. While each person is different, most are able to return to normal activities two to six weeks after surgery. In rare cases, the cyst will recur after surgery. A majority of patients report feeling relief from all discomfort related to the ganglion cyst once the surgery site has fully healed.

If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of a ganglion cyst, schedule an appointment with a hand and wrist specialist as soon as possible to help you determine treatment options and recovery expectations.


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