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

    The cause of ganglion cysts is not known.
  • Risk Factors

    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

    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

    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

    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
    A needle is put into the cyst to drain the fluid.
    Corticosteroid Injection
    A steroid solution is injected into the cyst. This is usually done after the cyst is drained.
    Surgery
    The cyst can be surgically removed. This is done when they are large and unsightly or painful. Cysts may return even after surgery.
  • Prevention

    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.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal%5Fand%5Fconnective%5Ftissue%5Fdisorders/hand%5Fdisorders/ganglia.html . 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.

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