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Ganglion cyst inflammation: Ganglion cyst – Symptoms and causes

Ganglion Cyst of the Wrist and Hand – OrthoInfo

Ganglion cysts are the most common mass or lump in the hand. They are not cancerous and, in most cases, are harmless. They occur in many locations, but most often develop on the back of the wrist.

These fluid-filled cysts can quickly appear, disappear, and change size. Many ganglion cysts do not require treatment. However, if the cyst hurts, if it affects function, or if you are unhappy with how it looks, there are several treatment options available.

A ganglion arises out of a joint, like a balloon on a stalk. It grows out of the tissues surrounding a joint, such as ligaments, tendon sheaths, and joint linings. Inside the balloon is a thick, slippery fluid, similar to the fluid that lubricates your joints.

The most common location of a ganglion cyst is on the back of the wrist.

Ganglion cysts can develop in several of the joints in the hand and wrist, including:

  • Both the top and underside of the wrist
  • The end joint of a finger
  • The base of a finger

They vary in size, and in many cases, grow larger with increased activity. With rest, the lump usually becomes smaller.

It is not known what triggers the formation of a ganglion.

  • They are most common in younger people between the ages of 15 and 40
  • Women are more likely to be affected than men.
  • They are common among gymnasts, who repeatedly apply stress to the wrist.
  • Ganglion cysts that develop at the end joint on the nail side of a finger — also known as mucous cysts — are typically associated with arthritis in the finger joint and are more common in women between the ages of 40 and 70.

A mucous cyst at the end of the index finger.

Most ganglions form a visible lump; however, smaller ganglions can remain hidden under the skin (occult ganglions). Although many ganglions produce no other symptoms besides the appearance of a mass, if a cyst puts pressure on the nerves that pass across the joint, it can cause pain, tingling, and muscle weakness.

If you have a large cyst, even if it is not painful, you may feel anxious or unhappy simply because of how it looks.

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Medical History and Physical Examination

During the initial appointment, your doctor will discuss your medical history and symptoms. They may ask you:

  • How long you have had the ganglion
  • Whether it changes in size
  • Whether it is painful

Your doctor may apply pressure to the cyst to test for tenderness or discomfort. Because a ganglion is filled with fluid, it is translucent (almost transparent). Your doctor may shine a penlight up to the cyst to see whether light shines through. This can help confirm that the mass is truly a cyst and not a solid tumor.

Imaging Tests

X-rays. X-rays create clear pictures of dense structures, like bone. Although X-rays will not show a ganglion cyst, they can be used to rule out other conditions, such as arthritis of the hand, arthritis of the wrist, or a bone tumor.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or ultrasounds. MRI scans and ultrasounds can better show soft tissues, like a ganglion, than X-rays. Sometimes, an MRI or ultrasound is needed to find an occult ganglion that is not visible, or to distinguish the cyst from other tumors. However, further imaging is often not needed prior to treatment. 

Nonsurgical Treatment

Initial treatment of a ganglion cyst is nonsurgical.

Observation. If you have no pain or other symptoms, your doctor may recommend just waiting and watching to make sure that no unusual changes occur. This is typically safe because ganglions are not cancerous and may disappear on their own in time.

Immobilization. Activity often causes the ganglion to increase in size, which may increase pressure on surrounding nerves, causing pain. A wrist brace or splint may relieve symptoms and cause the ganglion to decrease in size. As pain decreases, your doctor may prescribe exercises to strengthen the wrist and improve range of motion.

Aspiration. If the ganglion causes a great deal of pain or severely limits activities, the fluid may be drained from it.  This procedure is called an aspiration.

The area around the ganglion cyst is numbed and the cyst is punctured with a needle so that the fluid can be withdrawn.

Unfortunately, aspiration often fails to eliminate the ganglion because the root or connection to the joint or tendon sheath is not removed. A ganglion can be like a weed which will grow back if the root is not addressed. Thus, in many cases, the ganglion cyst returns after an aspiration procedure.

Aspirations are most often used for ganglions located on the top of the wrist. Ganglions on the palm side of the wrist can be tricky to aspirate because they are near major vessels and nerves.

During an aspiration procedure, the fluid is drained from the ganglion cyst.

Reproduced from JF Sarwark, ed: Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, ed 4. Rosemont, IL, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2010.

 Surgical Treatment

Your doctor may recommend surgery if your symptoms are not relieved by nonsurgical methods, or if the ganglion returns after aspiration. The procedure to remove a ganglion cyst is called an excision.

Surgery involves removing the cyst as well as addressing the stalk from which the cyst arises. This may mean removing part of the involved joint capsule or tendon sheath to ensure removal of the root of the cyst. Even after excision, there is a small chance the ganglion will return.

Excision is usually an outpatient procedure, meaning patients go home the day of surgery after a period of observation in the recovery area. There may be some tenderness, discomfort, and swelling after surgery. You are usually able to resume normal activities 2 to 6 weeks after the procedure.

A ganglion cyst at the wrist is removed during a surgical procedure called excision.

Ganglion cysts rarely, if ever, cause permanent disability. Cysts that do not go away on their own and cause symptoms almost always respond to surgery. In the rare case that a ganglion comes back after surgery, a revision surgery can be performed to remove the cyst again. After removal, most patients experience relief of symptoms. 

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Ganglion Cyst > Fact Sheets > Yale Medicine


A ganglion cyst is a lump, typically round or oval, that can develop on the hand or wrist. It may be as small as a pea or it can grow up to about an inch in diameter. 

Generally speaking, ganglion cysts are nothing to worry about. Fairly common, they are usually harmless, aren’t cancerous, don’t spread, and often disappear on their own. The main problem with them is that people who have them may feel they are unsightly and, if they grow too large, they can hurt and limit function.

Ganglion cysts are most common in people between the ages of 15 and 40, although they can develop at any age.

“It’s not clear what causes ganglion cysts to form, but there is some evidence that they may be related to prior trauma or arthritis,” says J. Grant Thomson, MD, director of Yale Medicine’s Hand & Microsurgery Program. 

What is a ganglion cyst?

A ganglion cyst is sac of sticky, colorless jelly-like fluid that can feel firm or spongy to the touch. These cysts tend to arise from tissue that surrounds joints. They are most often found on the back of the wrist, but might also occur in other areas, such as the base of a finger on the inside of the palm. There may be one large cyst or multiple small cysts.

Sometimes, ganglion cysts develop at the site of an injury or near an area where someone has developed arthritis. They sometimes are found in people who do sports or other activities that require them to put pressure on their wrists.

Although less common, ganglion cysts also may develop on the ankles and feet.

What are the symptoms of a ganglion cyst?

Most ganglion cysts don’t cause symptoms or interfere with function in any way. Some people may not even realize they have a ganglion cyst—some are so small they are difficult to detect. But if a ganglion cyst presses on nerves, it can can cause tingling and muscle weakness.

How are ganglion cysts diagnosed?

In assessing your ganglion cyst, the doctor will take note of the lump’s location, how it feels to the touch, and what it looks like. Ganglion cysts are translucent, so part of the diagnosis may be shining a light on the cyst to see if the light shines through it.

If you have a ganglion cyst, your doctor may ask you to have an X-ray to determine whether there are other problems in nearby joints. Sometimes, an MRI can show a ganglion cyst that is not visible on an X-ray.

How are ganglion cysts treated?

Some ganglion cysts go away on their own, while others remain small and cause no problems.  Small cysts may just be monitored, requiring no treatment at all. If a larger cyst is causing discomfort, your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory pain medications and/or wearing a splint. Immobilizing the affected area can relieve stress, provide pain relief, and sometimes even lead to a decrease in the size of the cyst.  

Some physicians may decide to puncture the cyst with a needle and remove the fluid. While this may provide relief, the results are usually only temporary, and there is a good chance that fluid will fill the cyst again.

If none of these approaches work, the doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to remove the ganglion cyst at its root. Though there is still a chance the cyst will recur, that’s less likely after surgery than with other treatment methods. Recovery from surgery to remove a ganglion cyst can take up to six weeks.

How is Yale Medicine unique in the treatment of ganglion cysts?

The Yale Medicine Hand and Microsurgery Program is among the most comprehensive in the area for evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of both simple and complex conditions of the hand, wrist, and forearm.

Our specialists work together to determine the best approach to diagnosing and treating even the most complex injuries, abnormalities, or diseases. Many patients who come to Yale Medicine find that treatment improves their hand function dramatically.

The Center for Musculoskeletal Care McGivney Advanced Surgery Center is a state-of the art facility staffed with expert nurses, anesthesiologist, surgeons, and support staff. All of these people are devoted to maximizing patient comfort and well-being before, during, and after surgery so that anxiety, pain, and recovery time are minimized.

Ganglion cyst – Chirurgia della mano


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Blog | Ganglion cysts (ganglion cysts)

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  • Ganglion cysts (ganglion cysts)

A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled lump under the surface of the skin that appears near joints and tendons. They usually do not cause any symptoms and often go away on their own. Treatment ranges from observation to outpatient surgery called a ganglionectomy.

What is a ganglion cyst

A ganglion cyst (plural ganglion) is a small, fluid-filled tumor just under the skin. Ganglia usually form close to the joint. Most ganglion cysts are on the wrist, finger, or foot.

How common are ganglion cysts

Many people develop ganglion cysts. Ganglia are one of the most common benign (noncancerous) formations that develop in the soft tissues of the body.

What causes ganglion cysts

Nobody knows exactly what causes ganglion cysts to grow. Some theories indicate that a cyst may develop after something damages the joint, causing tissue to leak or bulge.

Currently, most researchers agree that ganglion cysts develop from mesenchymal cells in the synovial-capsular junction as a result of continuous microtrauma. Repetitive damage to the supporting capsular and ligamentous structures appears to stimulate fibroblasts to produce hyaluronic acid, which accumulates to form the mucinous “jelly-like” material commonly found in ganglion cysts.

Who is prone to ganglion cysts

Based on what the medical community knows about ganglion cysts, anyone can get them. Certain factors can increase the chances of having one of these cysts. These factors include:

  • Sex. Women develop ganglia three times more often than men.
  • Age. Most people who develop a ganglion cyst develop it in early to middle age, between 20 and 50 years of age.
  • Previous trauma. Some clinicians believe that trauma to the joint (eg, tendinitis due to overuse of the wrist) may trigger the development of a ganglion cyst in the future. Research has yet to confirm this theory.
  • Arthritis. The presence of arthritis in the hands increases the likelihood of developing a ganglion cyst. People with arthritis often develop a ganglion cyst at their fingertips (in the joint closest to the nail). But having a ganglion cyst on your finger doesn’t mean you have (or will have) arthritis.

What are the symptoms of ganglion cysts

A bump under the skin is the main sign of a ganglion cyst. This bump can vary in size and shape. It may increase over time or as you use the area (the joint) more. The cyst may not bother you at all. If you have symptoms, you may notice some muscle pain or tingling at the site of the cyst. This is usually a mass effect, which means that the mass causes pressure and can cause inflammation.

Where ganglion cysts appear

Ganglion cysts usually appear in certain joints. Using a joint near the cyst can increase the swelling and any discomfort you feel.

Ganglion cysts usually develop on parts of the body such as:

  • Wrist, front or back.
  • Finger, near any joint of the finger (next to the palm or just below the nail).
  • Foot, closer to the ankle or toes.

What a ganglion cyst looks like

A ganglion cyst usually looks like a swelling on the wrist, finger or foot. This bump may look symmetrical (round) or deformed (more like an oval).

The ganglion cyst is located just below the surface of the skin. It may look like a bubble is blown out of the joint. Ganglia sometimes have a translucent effect (can be seen through the lump at certain angles).

Ganglion cysts, hard or soft

People experience ganglion cysts differently. Ganglia are usually (but not always) hard to the touch. Some people report that fluid-filled cysts are soft. The bump will likely move easily under the skin.

How a Ganglion Cyst is Diagnosed

Ganglion cysts are usually diagnosed by healthcare professionals by doing a physical examination. The appearance and location of the lump (for example, on the wrist or fingers) are clear signs of ganglia. Your doctor may press on the bulge to see if it’s bothering you. Or he can shine a light on the bump to see if it is translucent (partially transparent).

In some cases, the doctor may take a sample from the lump (called a biopsy) for further analysis. Ganglia usually contain a jelly-like fluid rather than hard tissue. In rare cases, a doctor may recommend an x-ray to learn more about the mass if it is causing symptoms.

Your doctor may also use ultrasound to tell the difference between a solid mass and a cyst. There is also a difference between a ganglion cyst and a synovial cell. The difference lies in the composition of the cyst mucosa.

Can there be problems with an occult ganglion cyst

Some ganglion cysts are so small that they don’t cause obvious physical swelling, but still cause pain. They are known as the occult ganglia. Your healthcare provider may order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound to look for them.

Do all ganglion cysts need treatment

If a ganglion cyst does not bother you, it may not need treatment. Sometimes a ganglion cyst goes away on its own.

Your doctor may recommend treatment if you have a ganglion cyst:

  • Pain, which can happen when the cyst presses on a nerve or joint tissue.
  • Makes certain movements or tasks difficult, such as walking or holding a pencil.
  • Makes you feel ashamed of your appearance.

How ganglion cysts are treated

Treatment for ganglion cysts includes:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs. They will help minimize swelling and relieve mild discomfort.
  • Splints or braces. Provides support and inhibits movement of the affected area, reducing swelling and pain.
  • Aspiration is a procedure in which a doctor uses a needle to remove fluid from a cyst. Doctors usually do aspiration in their office. You may feel better right away. Because this treatment only removes the fluid and not the entire cyst, your symptoms may return.

When a ganglion cyst needs surgery

Your doctor may consider surgery if other treatments fail or your cyst comes back. Surgeons treat ganglia by removing the entire cyst. The cyst often includes a stalk-like structure (root) attached to the cyst.

Your surgeon may use open (traditional) techniques or arthroscopy (small incisions). In some cases, surgeons may remove tissue from a nearby joint to completely fix the problem.

Surgery to remove a ganglion cyst is called a ganglionectomy. This is usually an outpatient procedure. This means that you will be able to return home on the day of the operation. Full recovery takes two to six weeks. Orthopedic surgeons are specially trained to perform complex operations on the joints and other soft tissues of the body.

Surgery can effectively eliminate symptoms. Surgical removal of a ganglion cyst significantly reduces the risk of cyst recurrence. However, the ganglia return after surgery in about 5-15% of cases.

Is it possible to prevent ganglion cysts

You cannot prevent a ganglion cyst. Medical experts do not know what causes them to develop.

Are ganglion cysts dangerous?

Ganglion cysts are not dangerous. These are benign growths, which means that they will not spread to other areas. Ganglion cysts are not cancer.

What is the prognosis (outlook) for people with ganglion cysts

Although some ganglion cysts can be painful, they do not pose a serious threat to your health.

What questions should I ask my doctor

If you have a ganglion cyst, you can ask your doctor the following:

  • Do I need treatment right now?
  • What treatment options do you recommend I try first and why?
  • What are the chances that the cyst will return after treatment?
  • When would you consider surgical treatment of ganglion cysts?
  • What are the risks and benefits of ganglionectomy surgery?

If you have a ganglion cyst, you may not need treatment right away. If it does not bother you, your doctor may monitor you for some time to see if there are any changes to the growth. Ganglion cysts are benign, which means that these growths are not cancer. They do not pose a long-term threat to your health. Many ganglion cysts disappear on their own. If a ganglion cyst is affecting your quality of life in any way, ask your doctor about treatment options. Splints, over-the-counter pain relievers, or surgery may help.