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Ganglion Cysts

  • Definition

    Ganglia are cystic swellings under the skin, generally in the wrist or the upper surface of the foot. A ganglion can develop on the top of the foot, on the front of the wrist, or in the fingers.


    Usually rubbery to the touch, a ganglion may vary in size. Ganglia are often no bigger than peas. They may be soft or quite hard, and they are usually either painless or only somewhat bothersome.


    A ganglion develops when a jelly-like substance accumulates in one of two places - a joint capsule or a tendon sheath - and causes it to balloon out. It results from an accumulation of the jelly-like substance that has leaked from a joint or tendon sheath.


    The usual sign is a lump on the wrist. Accompanying pain - especially when the wrist is extended or flexed - may be present, but usually the lump is painless.


    Diagnosis is made on the basis of a physical examination and, in some cases, other tests or an x-ray will be needed to exclude other problems. An ultrasound is sometimes useful to confirm the diagnosis.


    A ganglion is essentially harmless. However, if you observe a bump on your wrist or foot, seek your doctor's counsel to rule out other causes such as a malignancy.

    If the ganglion is painful, the doctor may be able to relieve the discomfort through surgical or other means, but in most cases the small, harmless lump requires no treatment and has no effect on one's daily activities.

    Surgical treatment involves bursting the ganglion simply by putting pressure on it after puncturing it in several places with a needle or draining the jelly-like contents with a needle. A surgical procedure is regarded as unnecessary in most cases, but if the ganglion is painful and does not respond to drainage, it can be removed surgically.


    Do any tests need to be done to diagnose the ganglion cyst or to rule out other problems?

    What causes these cysts?

    What treatment, if any, do you recommend?

    If surgery is recommended, what is the procedure? What anesthetic would be used?

    Can these cysts change in their size or appearance?