What are Ganglion Cysts? (gāng’glē-ən)
Ganglion cysts get their name from the Greek word meaning tumor. However, they are benign or non-cancerous tumors and cannot spread to other parts of the body.
So what exactly is a cyst?
A cyst is a small, fluid-filled sack that forms a visible painless lump. Cysts most often occur on the top or bottom of the wrist and on the fingers. They are typically anchored in place, but when pressed are soft and can be moved very slightly. A ganglion cyst can change size and shape over time.
What causes ganglion cysts?
The precise cause of a ganglion cyst is unknown although they are typically seen in areas where tendons and joints are in close proximity.
What are common symptoms?
With a ganglion cyst your symptoms may include:
- A lump at the base of the finger on the palm side
- An oval or round shape that may be soft or very firm
- Nodules at the base of the finger on the palm side that are very firm, pea-sized, and tender when touched or when gripping
- Cysts at the far joint of the finger often accompanied by an arthritic bone spur, thin overlaying skin, and lengthwise groove in the fingernail
- A mass on either side of the wrist that may increase and decrease in size with or without pain.
How are ganglion cysts diagnosed?
A diagnosis is based on the location of the lump and its appearance. For cysts at the base of the finger on the palm side, light will often pass through them (trans-illumination) and this can assist in the diagnosis. For cysts at the far joint of the finger that have an arthritic bone spur associated with them, your surgeon may request x-rays in order to look for evidence of problems in adjacent joints.
What are my treatment options?
The good news is that your treatment can often be non-surgical. In many cases, ganglion cysts can simply be observed, especially if they are painless, as they frequently disappear spontaneously. If, however, your cyst becomes painful, limits activity, or is otherwise unacceptable, several treatment options are available. Your Summit hand surgeon will work with you to design a custom treatment plan, which may include:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Aspiration to remove the fluid and decompress it
What can I expect the results to be after treatment?
Your ganglion cysts may recur after treatment or they may disappear altogether. Knowing there are treatment options available, and that the cysts are not cancerous and do not spread, will help you better understand their nature and allow you to get back to your everyday, active life.
Dr. Scofield explains the factors he considers when making decisions about which tendon treatment to use.
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