(Cyst, Ganglion; Ganglion)
DefinitionA 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, hand, fingers, or feet. Ganglion cysts are not cancerous.
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CausesThe cause of ganglion cysts is not known.
Risk FactorsGanglion 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.
SymptomsSymptoms 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
DiagnosisYou will be asked 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 imaging studies or a biopsy may be done to help confirm the diagnosis.
TreatmentSome ganglion cysts go away without treatment. If the cyst is 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:
MonitoringBecause many ganglion cysts disappear on their own, watching it to make sure it is improving may be all that is needed.
ImmobilizationYou may need to wear a splint on your wrist. Ganglion cysts usually get smaller with less activity and larger with more activity.
AspirationA needle is put into the cyst to drain the fluid.
Corticosteroid InjectionA steroid solution is injected into the cyst. This is usually done after the cyst is drained.
SurgeryThe cyst can be surgically removed. This is done when they are large and unsightly or painful. Cysts may return even after surgery.
PreventionThere are no current guidelines for preventing ganglion cysts.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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 May 2013. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Ganglion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 6, 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014.
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 September 29, 2014.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 08/2014
- Update Date: 09/29/2014
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