Ganglion cysts (ganglia) are tiny, fluid-filled lumps that develop under the skin. Ganglia are usually round or oval in appearance containing a jelly-like substance. They are non-cancerous in nature. These lumps usually develop close to a joint on the wrist, finger and/or foot. These lumps may also form in the ankles.
The size of a ganglion cyst differs from person to person. They range from a small pea-sized lump to a larger lump that is nearly 2.5 cm in diameter.
Ganglion cysts symptoms are distinct for each lump and are based on its location, shape and size. These factors can also help in the identification and detection of these cysts.
Ganglion cysts usually appear beside the tendons or joints of your wrists, hands, ankles and feet. However, it is possible that they develop alongside other joints. Another characteristic of these cysts is their round or oval shape as well as their small size. Ganglion cysts can be so small sometimes that they are hardly even felt. While larger cysts can interfere with the proper movement and functioning of your nearby joints.
Ganglion cysts are usually painless lumps, however, they may cause slight pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness if it presses on the nerve.
There is no exact and identified ganglion cyst reason. Some theories suggest that ganglion cysts begin to grow after a person experiences a joint injury allowing the tissue to break or leak out.
While everyone can develop ganglion cysts, some people are at a greater risk. You may develop a ganglion cyst if:
- You are a woman (women have a three times more risk than men)
- You are between the age group of 20-50
- You have experienced a previous injury at or around your joint
- You have arthritis
A ganglion cyst is identified when a person presents with the above-mentioned signs and symptoms. Your orthopaedic doctor examines your cyst physically and identifies the signs based on the shape, size and appearance of the cyst.
Your doctor will also press on the lump to analyse its pain intensity and shine a light on it to analyse the fluid inside.
Furthermore, your doctor will remove a sample of fluid from inside the lump and send it for further analysis. You may also be asked to undergo an X-ray and an ultrasound to identify if the mass inside the lump is solid or fluid.
Similar procedures and testing is used to diagnose ganglion cyst on other joints.
Ganglion treatment may not always be required, especially if the cyst does not bother you or cause troubling symptoms. Several times, ganglion cysts also go away on their own.
Ganglion treatment, in other cases, is offered based on the severity of symptoms, size, shape and location of the cyst. Common treatment methods used for this condition are:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Using splints or braces
- Fluid aspiration