A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled sac. It is usually attached to the membrane that surrounds a tendon or a joint lining. Ganglion cysts usually appear on the back of the wrist. They may also be on the underside of the wrist, hand, fingers, or feet. Ganglion cysts are not cancerous.
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Ganglion cysts are more common in young people and women. Participating in sports that put a lot of repeated stress on wrists increases the chance of developing a ganglion cyst.
Symptoms can include:
- A soft bump, usually on the back of the wrist
- Pain or tenderness at the site of the bump, but they do not always result in pain
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Most ganglion cysts are easily diagnosed based on the location and appearance.
If the diagnosis is not clear, imaging studies or a biopsy may be done to help confirm the diagnosis.
Some ganglion cysts go away without treatment. If the cyst is tender or unsightly, treatment may be wanted. Even with treatment, ganglion cysts can return.
Note: Do not attempt to smash the cyst with a heavy object, a traditional home remedy. This is unlikely to get rid of the cyst, but it is likely to cause injury.
Because many ganglion cysts disappear on their own, watching it to make sure it is improving may be all that is needed.
A splint may need to be worn on the wrist. Ganglion cysts usually get smaller with less activity and larger with more activity.
A needle is put into the cyst to drain the fluid.
A steroid solution is injected into the cyst. This is usually done after the cyst is drained.
The cyst can be surgically removed. This is done when they are large and unsightly or painful. Cysts may return even after surgery.
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.org
Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org
Common benign skin lesions. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T908545/Common-benign-skin-lesions . Updated July 24, 2017. Accessed August 30, 2017.
Ganglia (ganglion cysts). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/hand-disorders/ganglia. Updated November 2016. Accessed August 30, 2017.
Ganglion cyst of the wrist and hand. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00006. Updated March 2013. Accessed August 30, 2017.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
- Review Date: 09/2018
- Update Date: 09/29/2014