Ganglion cysts, also known as ganglia, are noncancerous, fluid-filled sacs or lumps that commonly develop on or near joints and tendons, typically in the wrist, hand, or foot. These cysts are usually round or oval and contain a thick, jelly-like fluid. Ganglion cysts can vary in size from very small to several centimeters in diameter.
The exact cause of ganglion cysts is not always clear, but they often form due to the following factors:
- Joint or tendon irritation: Overuse, repeated movements, or trauma to a joint or tendon can cause irritation and lead to the development of a cyst.
- Joint or tendon degeneration: Wear and tear on a joint or tendon can result in degeneration and the formation of a cyst.
- Joint or tendon injury: A previous injury or trauma to a joint or tendon can trigger the development of a cyst.
- Synovial fluid imbalance: Ganglion cysts are often filled with synovial fluid, which lubricates joints. An imbalance in the production and absorption of this fluid can contribute to cyst formation.
Symptoms of ganglion cysts may include:
- A noticeable lump or bump under the skin, often with a soft and spongy texture.
- Pain or discomfort, especially if the cyst is pressing against a nerve or joint.
- Limited range of motion in the affected joint, particularly if the cyst is near a joint.
Diagnosing a ganglion cyst is typically done through a physical examination by a healthcare provider. In some cases, imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI may be used to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions.
Treatment options for ganglion cysts depend on factors such as the size of the cyst, the location, and the presence of symptoms:
- Observation: If the cyst is small, painless, and not causing significant discomfort, a healthcare provider might recommend simply monitoring it over time.
- Draining the Cyst: If the cyst is causing discomfort, a healthcare provider might use a needle to aspirate the fluid from the cyst. However, recurrence is common with this method.
- Corticosteroid Injection: Injecting a corticosteroid into the cyst can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. This method can also have a risk of recurrence.
- Surgery: Surgical removal of the cyst, known as excision, might be recommended if the cyst is causing pain, limiting joint movement, or if conservative treatments are not effective.
It’s important to note that even if a ganglion cyst is removed, there is a possibility of recurrence. If you suspect you have a ganglion cyst or are experiencing symptoms, consulting a healthcare professional is recommended for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.