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What Are Ganglion Cysts?

To learn that you have a cyst or mass can be scary, but the good news is that ganglion cysts are noncancerous. They’re also often painless, but they can be problematic. You may not like the way it looks, or it may begin to press on a nerve and cause pain.

David Dickerson, MD, and his team at Performance Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine have a great deal of experience in treating problems of the hand. If you have a ganglion cyst, Dr. Dickerson can give it a thorough examination and, if needed, recommend an effective treatment. 

Ganglion cysts explained

Cysts are small, sac-like structures. Ganglion cysts are filled with a jelly-like substance, and they usually appear as squishy bumps pushing up the skin, frequently developing over tendons or joints in the hands or wrists. Other common locations for ganglion cysts are the ankles and feet. 

Like other cysts, ganglion cysts come in different shapes and sizes. Most of the time, ganglion cysts tend to be one inch or smaller. Many are pea-sized and don’t cause any symptoms. Others can grow larger and can cause tenderness, pain, and trouble with certain hand or wrist movements. 

If a ganglion cyst forms in a place where it presses on a nerve, you may experience pain or weakness because of the pressure on your nerve. And using the affected limb may make the pain and weakness worse. 

Causes of ganglion cysts

Experts don’t know exactly why ganglion cysts form. More women than men get them, and people under age 40 are more likely to have a ganglion cyst. Arthritis can be a risk factor for ganglion cysts in the finger joints. 

Because of these associations, researchers have several theories about the possible causes. It’s possible that trauma to a joint can lead to a ganglion cyst due to tissue being broken down. It’s also possible that a problem with the capsule that surrounds a joint can lead to the formation of a cyst. 

Treatment options for ganglion cysts

The good news is that ganglion cysts can be treated, regardless of their location, whether or not they press on a nerve, or whether or not they’re painful. If your cyst is small and doesn’t bother you, it may not need to be treated. 

Dr. Dickerson may recommend a fairly simple treatment, such as a splint or brace, to prevent the cyst from growing or interfering with your movement. 

Depending on your situation, other treatment options could include minor surgery or aspiration. If you have a ganglion cyst that hurts, limits your ability to move, or is particularly large, then surgery or aspiration may be your best options. 

Minor surgery

If needed, Dr. Dickerson can remove your ganglion cyst through minimally invasive surgery. You can rest easy knowing that your surgery will be performed by a highly trained and experienced expert. 

Aspiration

Since ganglion cysts are filled with a jelly-like fluid, it may be possible for Dr. Dickerson to simply remove the fluid and empty the cyst. The area where the cyst is located is numbed before the procedure, so you’ll remain comfortable. Unfortunately, cysts removed by aspiration return about 50% of the time, requiring additional aspiration or surgical intervention. 

If you’ve got a squishy bump, Dr. Dickerson can give it a thorough evaluation and discuss your next steps. To learn more, book an appointment over the phone with Performance Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine today.

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