What are Ganglion Cysts?
Ganglion cysts are small, noncancerous lumps beneath the skin that are filled with jelly-like fluid. They typically grow from the joints or tendons in the hands or feet. The cysts vary in size but are usually between one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter to just over an inch.
Not much is known about what causes ganglion cysts, but injury to the area may make them more likely to occur. Patients with arthritis are more likely to develop cysts in their hands, especially near the fingertips. The condition is most common in women between the ages of 20 and 40.
Ganglion Cyst Symptoms
The most common symptom to look out for is a visible cyst, although smaller cysts may develop unnoticed beneath the skin. The patient may see the cyst gradually increase in size if they use the joint for repetitive motion. Most cysts are not painful, but they can cause some discomfort if the growth is larger in size. In some cases, the cyst may put pressure on a nearby nerve, which can lead to tingling or numbness.
Ganglion Cyst Treatment
Ganglion cysts are typically painless, temporary, and best treated with a watch-and-wait approach. However, you should be sure to confirm the diagnosis with an orthopedic specialist who can evaluate your symptoms. A physical exam is usually sufficient, although imaging tests can help rule out other conditions. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may attempt to shine a light through the lump, or use a needle and syringe to draw fluid from the cyst.
If your cyst causes pain or limits your mobility, you should ask your doctor about treatment options. Draining the cyst can ease the symptoms, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent it from growing back. Motion can cause further growth, so a temporary brace or splint may be required to give the cyst time to shrink, while relieving any associated pressure on your nerves.
If all conservative approaches have been exhausted, your doctor may suggest surgery. This procedure involves removing both the cyst and the tissue that attaches it to the joint or tendon.
Ganglion Cyst Recovery Time
The cyst may recede on its own, but there is no guarantee of how long this may take. The cyst might disappear within a few months or last for years. Therefore, proactive treatment is recommended for patients experiencing any discomfort.
If you opt for surgical removal, it’s important to limit motion in the area for several days afterward to allow for healing, and treat any pain or swelling with medication and icing. After surgery, it generally takes two to six weeks before the area is fully healed.
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