Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled lumps around the hand and wrist usually developing near a joint or tendon. They are made out of thick jelly like fluid called synovial fluid, which surrounds and lubricates the joints and tendons serving as a cushion for movement. The cysts are most frequently found on the back of the wrist, the palm side of the wrist or base of the fingers. Their size can vary from a pea to the size of a golf ball.
Ganglion cysts are not cancerous and are usually harmless. If they do not cause any pain or discomfort they should be left alone and may even disappear on their own.
It is not very clear how the ganglion cysts occur, but they usually happen when the connective tissue around a joint breaks down. Ganglion cysts tend to develop in areas where a joint or tendon naturally bulges out of place, and the synovial fluid that surrounds them leaks out and collects in a sac.
Joint stress is one of the main reasons for the forming of ganglion cysts because they can cause splitting of the joint capsule or break down of the connective tissue in the area. This leads to synovial fluid leakage that can eventually form the cyst.
Ganglions can affect mostly people between the age of 15 to 40 years and women have more tendency of developing one.
Ganglion cysts are typically oval and round lumps on the base of the wrists or fingers. They may or may not be painful, and they can either be soft or very firm. Cysts on the base of the finger (palm side) are usually very firm and pea-sized. The cysts at the far joint of the finger are usually associated with arthritis.
TREATMENTS OF GANGLION CYSTS
Ganglion cysts are diagnosed with a physical exam where the doctor will usually shine a light through the cyst to see if the content is transparent. X- ray, MRI or Ultrasounds can be used to help rule out other conditions.
Most Ganglion Cysts will not require treatment unless they significantly disturb the patient daily activities.
The two Treatment options for Ganglion cyst are:
Fluid drainage with needle and syringe (called aspiration)
This simple and painless procedure is done by using a needle and syringe to remove as much as possible from the ganglion content. Sometimes the doctor may inject steroid medication to prevent the returning of the ganglion. However, around half of all ganglion cysts treated using aspiration return at some point. If a cyst does return, surgery may be necessary.
There are two types of surgeries for removing ganglion cyst and both can be done with local or general anesthesia.
- Open surgery where the surgeon will make a cut over the affected area and drain the cyst.
- Arthroscopic surgery where the surgeon makes a small keyhole and inserts a tiny camera called arthroscope that will serve as a guide to the cyst.
Both techniques are equally effective for removing the cyst and reducing the risk of returning but still there is always a chance for the ganglion cyst to return after treatment.