GANGLION CYST

Ganglions are small sacs (cysts) filled with fluid that often appear as bumps on top of joints or tendons at the back of the hand, wrist joint and palm side of the wrist.

Most people with ganglion cysts notice that the bumps appear suddenly. Bumps may be very small like a pea or bigger than a cherry. Ganglions may get bigger as activity increases and more fluid collects in the sac, as it grows it can cause pain by pressing on a nearby nerve.

Anyone can get a ganglion: adults between 15 and 40 years old are most likely to be affected.  Those who have osteoarthritis and/ or joint or tendon injury can also have ganglion cyst.

What causes ganglions?

Experts don’t know the exact cause of ganglions. They may be linked to:

  • Inflammation or irritation of the tendon sheath or joint capsule.
  • An injury.
  • Overuse or repetitive motions, such as those you do at work.
  • A common type of ganglion called a mucous cyst ganglion occurs with arthritis of the hands. It usually affects the joint nearest the fingernail.

Ganglion Cyst Symptoms and Signs:

  • The ganglion cyst usually appears as a bump (mass) that changes size.
  • It is usually soft, anywhere from 1-3 cm in diameter (about .4-1.2 inches) and doesn’t move.
  • The swelling may appear over time or appear suddenly, may get smaller in size, and may even go away, only to come back at another time.
  • Most ganglion cysts cause some degree of pain, usually following acute or repetitive trauma, many are without symptoms, except for appearance.
  • The pain is usually nonstop, aching, and made worse by joint motion.
  • When the cyst is connected to a tendon, you may feel a sense of weakness in the affected finger.

DIAGNOSIS:

A ganglion can usually be diagnosed based on how it looks and where it is. Your doctor will also feel the bump and shine a light alongside it. If the bump is a ganglion, the light usually shines through it.

You may need an X-ray if your doctor suspects arthritis or injury. Some of the fluid found in the ganglion may be removed and examined. In rare cases, an MRI or ultrasound may be done.

 

RECOMMENDED MEDICATIONS

Ganglions usually don’t need treatment, and they often go away on their own. But treatment may be needed if the ganglion causes pain or other symptoms, limits what you can do, affects your bones or ligaments, or gets infected. You may also want treatment if you’re bothered by how the bump looks.

Your doctor may treat a ganglion by:

  • Giving you a wrist or finger splint to wear.
  • Draining fluid from the bump with a needle (aspiration).
  • Injecting hydrocortisone into the joint.
  • Doing surgery to remove it.

With or without treatment, ganglions may come and go and may get bigger or smaller.

What can you do at home for a ganglion?

  • Use a wrist or finger splint for several weeks. This may be all that is needed for the ganglion to shrink and disappear on its own. Make sure that the splint isn’t too tight. Numbness, tingling, pain, or coolness in your hand are signs that you need to loosen the splint.
  • Do not smash a ganglion with a book or other heavy object. You may break a bone or otherwise injure your wrist by trying this folk remedy, and the ganglion may return anyway.
  • Do not try to drain the fluid by poking the ganglion with a pin or any other sharp object. You could cause an infection.
  • If the ganglion breaks open on its own and the skin is broken:
    • Apply an antibiotic ointment and a bandage. Stop using the ointment if a rash or irritation develops under the bandage.
    • Wash the area 2 or 3 times each day to prevent infection.
  • Call your doctor if you have signs of infection (increased pain or redness, red streaks, pus coming from the bump, fever).

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