Ganglion Cysts

What are Ganglion Cysts?

Ganglion cysts are very common lumps within the hand and wrist that occur adjacent to joints or tendons.  The most common locations are the top of the wrist, the palm side of the wrist, the base of the finger on the palm side, and the top of the end joint of the finger. The ganglion cyst often resembles a water balloon on a stalk, and is filled with clear fluid or gel.

What Causes Ganglion Cysts?

The cause of ganglion cysts is often unknown, although they may form in the presence of joint/ tendon irritation or mechanical changes. They occur in patients of all ages. These cysts may change in size or even disappear completely and they may or may not be painful. These cysts are not cancerous and will not spread to other areas.

How are Ganglion Cysts Diagnosed?

The diagnosis is usually based on the location of the lump and its appearance. They are usually oval or round and may be soft or very firm. Cysts at the base of the finger on the palm side are typically very firm, pea sized nodules that are tender to applied pressure, such as when gripping. Light will often pass through these lumps, (trans-illumination), which can assist in the diagnosis.

Your physician may request x rays in order to look for evidence of problems in adjacent joints. Cysts at the far joint of the finger frequently have an arthritic bone spur associated with them. The overlaying skin may also become thin and there may be a lengthwise groove in the fingernail just beyond the cyst.

What are the Treatment Options?

Treatment can often be non-surgical and involves draining the fluid from the cyst with a needle. This is the most common form of treatment, which can be done in your doctors office. In rarer cases, a ganglionectomy may be needed. Your hand doctor will discuss the best treatment options for you.

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