A ganglion cyst is a benign or noncancerous swelling over a joint. It can also be found under a tendon, which connects a bone to a muscle. It’s a small, fluid-filled sac. When it is opened, the fluid is gel-like and clear. These cysts can feel firm to the touch or have some give. A patient can have one very large cyst or what feels like many small ones, though they are usually connected to one stalk.

Who’s at Risk?

Anyone can develop a ganglion cyst, but women and young people are more at risk. They are rare in children under 10.

What are the Characteristics?

A ganglion cyst is between 1/3 and 1 inch in diameter and can change size and even go away. It is stationary and can appear suddenly or gradually. Some cysts hurt, but some are painless. If they do hurt, moving the joint makes the pain worse. Ganglion cysts that are attached to a tendon may make the finger the tendon serves feel weak.

Where are They Found?

Ganglion cysts are usually found on the top of the wrist or on the back of the patient’s hand. They can also be found on the palm side of the wrist. Other places are the palm of the hand at the bottoms of the fingers, at the fingertips, outside of the ankle or knee or the top of the foot. The cysts on the fingers are found just beneath the cuticle and are known as mucous cysts.

What Causes Them?

Doctors don’t know what causes ganglion cysts. Some people believe they are triggered when joint tissue undergoes trauma and starts to break down. It then forms cysts that meld together into a larger mass that can be felt.

How are They Treated?

Ganglion cysts don’t need to be treated unless they’re very painful. They should at least be checked by a professional to make sure that they are indeed ganglion cysts and nothing more serious. A person with a ganglion cyst can treat it at home, but it is not advisable to do this.

Learn More

If you have a lump near a joint or tendon that you believe is a ganglion cyst, set up a consultation with one of our experts at Plymouth Bay Orthopedic Associates, located in Plymouth, Sandwich and Duxbury. Contact us today to book your appointment and learn more about the available treatment options.