Ganglion Cysts

This is a condition characterized by the formation of fluid-filled sacs on the skin. Ganglion cysts extend from the joint capsule or tendon sheaths in the tissues surrounding a joint and are associated with osteoarthritis and chronic overuse.

What You Need To Know About Ganglion Cysts

What is a Ganglion Cyst?

A ganglion cyst is a noncancerous, fluid-filled sac that appears on the tissues surrounding a joint. The sac connects to a stalk that permits fluid to move between the cyst and the affected area. The stalk can act as a stop valve that causes the cyst to increase size. Although rare, fluid inflow and drainage can happen based on your activities.

Ganglion cysts typically form on the wrists, hands, ankles, or feet. They usually develop near tendons or joints in these problem areas. These cysts range in size from pea-sized to quarter-sized. Many of these cysts form near nerves and can cause pain that compromises joint movement.

The physicians at Resurgens will be able to diagnose your condition thoroughly. Book an appointment now at one of our 24 Metro Atlanta locations.

What Causes a Ganglion Cyst?

There is no known cause for ganglion cysts. Several lifestyle factors can contribute to developing the condition, including the buildup in fluid in joints as a result of trauma and wearing down of the joint.

Other factors that increase your risk of developing cysts include:

  • People with osteoarthritis of the handfrom chronic overuse in their fingers

  • Although ganglion cysts develop in any person at any age, they frequently appear in women in the age range of 20 to 40 years old

  • Overuse and inflammation in the hands caused by repetitive activities such as gymnastics

Ganglion Cyst Symptoms

Usually, you will notice a cyst as a small, oval-type formation on your skin. The portion of the cyst that is visible on the surface can vary in size, from the tip of a pen to the size of a silver half-dollar. Cysts vary from soft to hard and move without discomfort under the skin. Because fluid moves in and out of the sac, they often fluctuate in size based on your current activity.

Typically ganglion cysts are not generally painful. But when they interfere or press on a nerve, they can cause pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling.

Although they appear on the hands, they can appear on the wrist, knee, ankle, or foot.

How Is a Ganglion Cyst Diagnosed?

Only a doctor or qualified professional can diagnose a ganglion cyst. Your doctor will need to perform a thorough exam of the affected area. This exam can involve a visual check where the doctor may need to press down on the cyst. Applying pressure to cysts can cause discomfort. They may also try different methods to confirm it is a ganglion cyst. These confirmation methods range from using light to aspirating the cyst (draining the cyst fluid with a needle and syringe).

It is common for a doctor to use diagnostic imaging during your examination. These tools can help discover small ganglion cysts that are not visible with the naked eye. Diagnostic imaging also helps rule out other causes of your pain, such as tumors or arthritis.

Ganglion Cyst Treatment Options

Many ganglion cysts are painless, and over half of them resolve without intervention. If a cyst is not causing pain or discomfort that interferes with your life, it is a good idea to wait and see if the cyst yields over time.

However, if a cyst is interfering with your joint movement and generating pain, there are several treatment options to help alleviate your pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Aleve, Motrin, Advil, Tylenol, and their non-branded counterparts can help relieve pain.

Your doctor may recommend using a brace or a splint to immobilize the affected area for more challenging cases. Using immobilization methods help the cyst shrink by relieving pressure on your nerves. Additionally, warm compresses help ease pain and promote fluid drainage. If you can, avoid any motion that causes discomfort. If the cyst is in your foot, then switching to looser footwear can help relieve soreness.

When cysts do not respond to these options, your doctor may want to aspirate the cyst. Aspiration involved using a syringe to drain the fluid from the cyst, thus causing it to lose its shape like a balloon without air. However, cysts sometimes reoccur after this procedure.

For extreme cases, your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgery is the last option if other options haven't helped your condition. Removing the cyst and stalk entirely is an effective pain treatment, but sometimes the cyst can recur after surgery.

Only trust a doctor to administer your treatment. At-home folk remedies like striking the cyst with a heavy object are not effective treatments. They can cause additional injury and lead to infection and cyst recurrence.

You owe it to yourself to get a proper diagnosis from a physician for your condition. Schedule an appointment now and find out how the dedicated physicians at Resurgens can help you get moving again.