What is a Ganglion Cyst?
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.
Ganglion Cyst Causes
The cause of ganglion cysts is unknown although they may form in the presence of joint or 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. Ganglion cysts are not cancerous and will not spread to other areas.
Ganglion Cyst Symptoms
The diagnosis of ganglion cysts 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) and this can assist in the diagnosis. Sometimes X-rays are required 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 become thin, and there may be a lengthwise groove in the fingernail just beyond the cyst.
Ganglion Cyst Treatment
Treatment of ganglion cysts can often be non-surgical. In many cases, these cysts can simply be observed, especially if they are painless, as they frequently disappear spontaneously. If the cyst becomes painful or limits activity several treatment options are available. The use of splints and anti-inflammatory medication can be prescribed in order to decrease pain associated with activities. An aspiration can be performed to remove the fluid from the cyst and decompress it. This requires placing a needle into the cyst, which can be performed in most office settings. Aspiration is a very simple procedure, but recurrence of the cyst is common. If non-surgical options fail to provide relief or if the cyst recurs, surgical alternatives are available. Ganglion cyst surgery involves removing the cyst along with a portion of the joint capsule or tendon sheath. In the case of wrist ganglion cysts, both traditional open and arthroscopic techniques usually yield good results. Surgical treatment of ganglion cysts is generally successful although some cysts may recur.