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Ganglion Cyst

(Cyst, Ganglion; Ganglion)

Definition

A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled sac. It is usually attached to the membrane that surrounds a tendon or a joint lining. Ganglion cysts usually appear on the back of the wrist. They may also be on the underside of the wrist, the hand, the fingers, or the feet. Ganglion cysts are not cancerous.

Ganglion Cyst

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Causes    TOP

The cause of ganglion cysts is not known.

Risk Factors    TOP

Ganglion cysts are more common in young people and women. Participating in sports that put a lot of repeated stress on wrists increases your chance of developing a ganglion cyst.

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms can include:

  • A soft bump, usually on the back of the wrist
  • Pain or tenderness at the site of the bump, but they do not always result in pain

Diagnosis    TOP

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Most ganglion cysts are easily diagnosed based on the location and appearance.

If the diagnosis is not clear, your doctor may perform imaging studies or perform a biopsy to help confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment    TOP

Some ganglion cysts go away without treatment. If the cyst is very tender or unsightly, you may want treatment. Even with treatment, ganglion cysts can return.

Note: Do not attempt to smash the cyst with a heavy object, a traditional home remedy. This is unlikely to get rid of the cyst, but it is likely to cause injury.

Treatments include:

Monitoring

Because many ganglion cysts disappear on their own, watching it to make sure it is improving may be all that is needed.

Immobilization

You may need to wear a splint on your wrist. Ganglion cysts usually get smaller with less activity and larger with more activity.

Aspiration    TOP

A needle is put into the cyst to drain the fluid.

Corticosteroid Injection    TOP

A steroid solution is injected into the cyst. This is usually done after the cyst is drained.

Surgery    TOP

The cyst can be surgically removed. This is done when they are large and unsightly or painful. Cysts may return even after surgery.

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines for preventing ganglion cysts.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
http://www.sportsmed.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

References:

Ganglia (ganglion cysts). The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy website. Available at: http://www.merckma... . Updated March 2013. Accessed June 6, 2013.
Ganglion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated July 13, 2011. Accessed June 6, 2013.
Ganglion cyst of the wrist and hand. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00006 . Updated March 2013. Accessed June 6, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013