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Ganglion Cysts – Symptoms and Treatment

Small and non-cancerous sacs of fluid that usually develop near a joint or a tendon are called ganglion Cysts. The fluid inside these lumps is like the lubrication fluid in our joints. These round or oval-shaped cysts vary in size. Some of them are very small but can grow larger in severe cases.


Dr Vijay Kumar Sohanlal, an expert in joint replacement and orthopaedics at MGM Healthcare and Mahi clinic – Chennai, described the symptoms of the condition. He said that these cysts are usually visible to the naked eye. The size of these soft lumps varies and may get as large as a golf ball. Irrespective of the size, they are generally harmless.

If the placement of a cyst is such that it pushes against a nerve, it may cause pain and mobility issues. Mostly these lumps develop around the wrist, the back of the hand, ankles or feet. They may also develop at the base of a finger or its end joint.


Studies suggest that minor trauma or injury may cause the synovial fluid to escape from the joint capsule or tendon sheath and collect at one place near the affected area. However, this is not universally established and there may be other causes.

While the debate on the real causes continues, there is a general acceptance of certain risk factors related to the formation of cysts. Usually, females in the age group of 15-40 are most likely to be affected. People who are in certain professions that make them overuse a joint are more likely to develop cysts. Minor trauma and injuries of joints or tendons may lead to the condition.


Ganglion cysts are visually recognizable when examined by a doctor. Dr Vijay said that usually, the examination relates to the location and size of the cyst as well as the pain caused by it. The usual imaging tests like MRI, X-ray or ultrasound are done to establish the details of the condition.


Sometimes the condition may cure on its own and no treatment is required. So, you may just observe the cyst and watch how it changes over a period. If you experience pain due to the condition the doctor may recommend a brace or a splint to support your affected joint.

However, if the pain is severe and the mobility is also affected, the specialist may puncture the cyst and draw the fluid out of it. This is followed by injecting an anti-inflammatory steroid. Then a splint is placed to minimize the movement of the joint for some time. This technique is known as aspiration. This is a temporary solution as the cyst may develop again.

A surgical procedure, arthroscopy, is performed to remove the cyst as well as its root. This removal usually minimizes the chances of re-growth of cysts in the joint or tendon. The patient is observed for some time and then discharged to go home. You may have to revisit the doctor for a follow-up check-up. Usually, it takes about 2 to 6 weeks for a full recovery.


As the real cause of the condition is not confirmed, it may be difficult to prevent it. However, you may be able to manage it better if you approach a specialist as soon as you notice a bump.

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