A ganglion cyst is a harmless, hard lump that forms under the skin, often on the top or underside of a wrist or on the base or end joint of a finger. Ganglion cysts can also develop on the ankles and feet. With a structure that is similar to a balloon on a stalk, this fluid-filled lump may suddenly appear, disappear, and/or change in size as it grows out of the tissues surrounding a joint. While the underlying causes are unknown, ganglion cysts often affect gymnasts and others who perform repetitive tasks that involve wrist strain.
Many ganglion cysts do not cause pain or require treatment. Because they are not cancerous and often resolve on their own with time, a physician may suggest a wait-and-watch approach, then regularly monitor the cyst for unusual changes. For instance, symptoms may begin to occur if a ganglion cyst grows large enough to press on a nearby nerve. The irritated nerve may then produce pain, tingling sensations, and muscle weakness.
Nonsurgical Treatment Options
If a ganglion cyst causes discomfort, interferes with function, or has an unacceptable appearance, there are several nonsurgical treatment options available. Treatment for a ganglion cyst may involve:
- Immobilization – Excessive movement can cause a ganglion cyst to grow in size and create pressure on nearby nerves. A brace or splint may be worn to immobilize the affected joint and enhance comfort. As the pain improves, exercises may be performed to strengthen the joint and increase its range of motion.
- Medications – An over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen can help relieve painful inflammation caused by a ganglion cyst.
- Aspiration – If a ganglion cyst causes severe pain or limits daily activities, a physician may suggest an in-office aspiration procedure. After numbing the surrounding area, the physician will insert a small needle to puncture the cyst and drain its fluid. While aspiration can provide immediate symptom relief, the “root” of the ganglion cyst—the tissue that connects it to the joint capsule or tendon sheath—will remain intact, which means the cyst can potentially grow back.
Surgical Treatment Options
Surgery may be considered to address a ganglion cyst that does not respond to conservative treatment or grows back after aspiration. This outpatient procedure, which is known as excision, involves the removal of the ganglion cyst along with its “root.” In addition to providing symptom relief, surgical excision can greatly reduce the likelihood that the cyst will return.
Consult With an Orthopedic Specialist in Lafayette
If you have a painful ganglion cyst that is interfering with your day-to-day activities, you are welcome to consult with Peter D. Vizzi, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who offers both conservative and surgical treatments for ganglion cysts. After evaluating your condition, Dr. Vizzi will fully explain your treatment options. Request an appointment at his office in Lafayette, Louisiana, today.