A ganglion cyst is a lump filled with fluid beneath the skin surface. It is often painless but might trigger enough discomfort to necessitate treatment depending on its location.
The cysts frequently form on the joints and tendons of the wrist. They might also form at the underside of the wrist, base of the finger or at the end of the upper finger joint. The ganglion cysts are described as round-shaped and feel soft or firm to the touch. The cysts are linked to the joint on top a stalk-like component called as pedicle but can be felt as moving on that area. As for the skin on top of the cyst, it remains the same as the rest of the skin.
Most cases of ganglion cysts do not trigger any symptoms. Others might grow large enough that it becomes unattractive but will not cause other symptoms. In some cases, the cysts do not cause any symptoms for months or even years and abruptly cause discomfort or affect the range of motion.
If the cyst compresses the nerves in the wrist, it can trigger tingling, numbness, reduced range of motion and a weak grip. Once pain is present, it is often a bothersome ache.
How is a ganglion cyst treated?
Around 50% of cases settle on their own over time. Due to this and lack of association to other serious ailments, the doctor might not suggest treatment. In case the cyst is not triggering any discomfort, the doctor might decide to monitor the cyst over time.
If the cysts trigger discomfort or disrupt with the activity and range of motion, several treatment options are considered.
- A splint is used on the wrist or finger to prevent the site from being worsened by additional activity and allow the inflammation to settle.
- Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin to alleviate any discomfort.
- Aspiration involves the creation of a hole in the cyst and fluid is drained out. This provide immediate relief to the discomfort.
Since aspiration does not completely remove the cyst, it is likely for the cysts to return. The most effective treatment for a ganglion cyst is surgery.