Ganglion cysts are noncancerous lumps that most commonly develop along the tendons or joints of your wrists or hands. They also may occur in the ankles and feet. Ganglion cysts are typically round or oval and are filled with a jellylike fluid.
Small ganglion cysts can be pea-sized, while larger ones can be around an inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. Ganglion cysts can be painful if they press on a nearby nerve. Their location can sometimes interfere with joint movement.
If your ganglion cyst is causing you problems, your doctor may suggest trying to drain the cyst with a needle. Removing the cyst surgically also is an option. But if you have no symptoms, no treatment is necessary. In many cases, the cysts go away on their own.
HAND & WRIST ANATOMY
Ganglion cysts most commonly develop along the tendons or joints of your wrists or hands. The next most common locations are the ankles and feet. These cysts can occur near other joints as well.
Shape and size
Ganglion cysts are round or oval and usually measure less than an inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. Some are so small that they can’t be felt. The size of a cyst can fluctuate, often getting larger when you use that joint for repetitive motions.
Ganglion cysts usually are painless. But if a cyst presses on a nerve — even if the cyst is too small to form a noticeable lump — it can cause pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness.
Your sex and age
Ganglion cysts can develop in anyone, but they most commonly occur in women between the ages of 20 and 40.
People who have wear-and-tear arthritis in the finger joints closest to their fingernails are at higher risk of developing ganglion cysts near those joints.
Joint or tendon injury
Joints or tendons that have been injured in the past are more likely to develop ganglion cysts.
Ganglion cysts are often painless, requiring no treatment. Your doctor may suggest a watch-and-wait approach. If the cyst is causing pain or interfering with joint movement, your doctor may recommend:
Because activity can cause the ganglion cyst to get larger, it may help to temporarily immobilize the area with a brace or splint. As the cyst shrinks, it may release the pressure on your nerves, relieving pain. Avoid long-term use of a brace or splint, which can cause the nearby muscles to weaken.
In this procedure, your doctor uses a needle to drain the fluid from the cyst. The cyst may recur.
This may be an option if other approaches haven’t worked. During this procedure, the doctor removes the cyst and the stalk that attaches it to the joint or tendon. Rarely, the surgery can injure the surrounding nerves, blood vessels or tendons. And the cyst can recur, even after surgery.
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