Florida Hand Doctor Discusses Ganglion Cysts
Has a bump suddenly appeared on your hand? You may have a ganglion cyst.
Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled lumps that develop along joints or tendons.
While these cysts can appear on ankles, feet or anywhere else on the body, they develop most frequently on the back of the wrist. In fact, ganglion cysts are the most common type of mass or lump in the hand, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). They may appear on the top or underside of the wrist, at the end joint of a finger, or at the base of a finger.
Round or oval in shape, ganglions usually contain a jellylike fluid that is somewhat like the fluid that lubricates the joint of your body. Cysts range in size from small, pea-sized lumps to bumps as large as an inch in diameter.
These cysts grow out of ligaments, joint linings, tendon sheaths, and other tissue surrounding joints. A ganglion rises out between the bones of a joint, somewhat like a balloon.
The primary symptom of this type of cysts is the visible appearance of a lump. Ganglion can develop beneath the skin, however, and some cysts can cause pain or poor function. Most ganglions are not cancerous. The cysts can quickly appear, disappear, and change size. The lumps frequently increase in size with activity and shrink with rest.
Cysts can cause pain if they press against a nerve. They can also develop in a location that interferes with joint movement. In cases where ganglions cause pain, interfere with function, or have an unacceptable appearance, treatment may be necessary.
Medical professionals do not yet know what causes ganglions to form. They do know that women and younger people between the ages of 15 and 40 tend to develop these lumps more often. AAOS also notes these cysts are common among gymnasts, who frequently apply tremendous stress to their wrist joints. Cysts that develop at the end joint of fingers are often associated with arthritis in the finger joint.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Ganglion Cysts
A hand doctor can diagnose and treat ganglion cysts. Diagnosis begins with an evaluation that includes examination of the affected area along with a review of your medical history and symptoms. Your doctor may order imaging tests, such as x-rays, ultrasounds or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get a clear picture of ganglion beneath the skin.
Treatment may not be required if ganglion do not cause pain, impair function, or have an unsightly appearance. A hand doctor may suggest immobilization to give the affected area time to rest. The doctor might suggest aspiration, a procedure that involves using a needle to remove excess fluid from the cyst.
Surgery to remove a ganglion cyst may be necessary if the cyst causes pain, impaired mobility or embarrassment. Patients may experience tenderness, discomfort, or swelling after the procedure.
For more information about ganglion cysts, make an appointment with your local hand doctor.