What is a Ganglion Cyst?
A ganglion cyst is a type of cyst that is very common in the area of the hand and wrist. It is a lump that occurs adjacent to joints or tendons. Common locations are:
on the top of the wrist
the base of the finger, on the palm side
the side of the wrist
the top of the end joint of the finger
Resembling a water balloon on a stalk and filled with clear fluid or gel, the cause of ganglion cysts remains unknown. They may form when a joint or tendon is irritated or has mechanical changes, and may occur at any age.
These cysts can change in size as well as even disappear completely. They may or may not be painful, are not cancerous, nor will they spread to other areas.
How are Ganglion Cysts Diagnosed?
The diagnoses is usually determined, based on where the lump is located and its appearance. The cyst may be soft or very firm and is usually oval or round in shape. When a cyst is at the base of the finger, on the palm side, it is typically a very firm nodule, the size of a pea. It is also usually tender when pressure is applied, such as when gripping. Light will often pass through these lumps, called "trans-illumination", and can assist in the diagnosis. In order to investigate problems in adjacent joints, your doctor may request x-rays. When a cyst is at the end joint of the finger, it is often associated with a arthritic bone spurs.
How to treat Ganglion Cysts
In many cases, non-surgical forms of treatment are used for ganglion cysts. Many times these cysts can just be observed, especially when they are painless, since they very often disappear spontaneously. If the cyst does become painful, limits activity, or for any reason is unacceptable, several kinds of treatment options are available to choose from such as:
• Performing an aspiration to remove the fluid from the cyst in order to decompress it
• The use of splints along with anti-inflammatory medication to decrease pain associated with activities
An aspiration, which requires placing a needle into the cyst, can be performed in most office settings. It is a very simple procedure, although recurrence of the cyst is common.
If these non-surgical options do not provide relief, or if the cyst recurs, surgical alternatives are available. Surgery removes the cyst along with a portion of the joint capsule or tendon sheath. When a ganglion cyst is on the wrist, both traditional open and arthroscopic techniques usually yield good results. Surgical treatment is generally successful, although cyst may recur. Dr. Sagini can discuss the best treatment option for you.
For more information, questions, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Sagini, call 239-337-2003.