While you may not be familiar with the ganglion cysts, they’re the most common type of mass that forms in the body’s soft tissues. Thankfully, these strange lumps are rarely problematic.
While ganglion cysts generally pose no real threat, the team of experts here at Western Orthopaedics feels it’s worthwhile to better understand these masses, especially if the knowledge can bring you some peace of mind. So, if you’ve developed a lump in your wrist, finger, or foot, and you’re wondering what it might be, we can explain.
Ganglion cysts at a glance
As we mentioned, ganglion cysts are the most common form of masses that can develop in your soft tissues. These fluid-filled sacs are benign (noncancerous) and tend to form in the following areas:
- On the upper or lower side of your wrist
- Near your ankles or toes
- In your fingers
In most cases, these cysts form near joints in these areas. From the outside, you may notice a lump in your skin that’s fairly firm (though they can be “squishy” to the touch) and most people can easily move the lump around.
The cysts can range in size from barely noticeable to larger bumps that may interfere with function. To put a number to their size, most cysts don’t go beyond one inch in diameter.
What causes ganglion cysts
Medical experts are not exactly sure why ganglion cysts develop, but the fact they pop up near joints tells us that overuse, injury, or arthritis may play a role.
Most cysts tend to develop in people between the ages of 20 and 50 and, interestingly, women are three times more likely to develop ganglion cysts than men.
When ganglion cysts are problematic
In most cases, you won’t feel any symptoms from a ganglion cyst. If the cyst grows in size, it can have an effect on the function of the joint. As well, if it presses up against a nerve, you may feel some discomfort.
Treating ganglion cysts
Since most ganglion cysts pose no real threat or discomfort, there’s usually no need to treat the problem. In fact, these masses often disappear on their own.
If, however, your ganglion cyst does pose problems with comfort or aesthetics, we can take one of two steps:
1. Drain the cyst
Using a needle, we can aspirate the fluid from within the cyst. It’s important to note that we don’t remove the cyst with this technique, but merely its contents, which means the fluid can return.
2. Remove the cyst
We can also surgically remove the cyst during a ganglionectomy. During this minimally invasive, outpatient procedure, we remove the cyst and its stalk with the hopes that it does not return. We should note that the cysts do return after surgery in 5-15% of cases.
If you have more questions about ganglion cysts, or you feel you have a cyst that needs treatment, contact one of our two offices in Denver or Arvada, Colorado, to set up an appointment.