A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled sac. It is usually attached to the membrane that surrounds a tendon or a joint lining. Ganglion cysts usually appear on the back of the wrist. They may also be on the underside of the wrist, hand, fingers, or feet. Ganglion cysts are not cancerous.
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Ganglion cysts are more common in young people and women. Participating in sports that put a lot of repeated stress on wrists increases your chance of developing a ganglion cyst.
Symptoms can include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Most ganglion cysts are easily diagnosed based on the location and appearance.
If the diagnosis is not clear, your imaging studies or a biopsy may be done to help confirm the diagnosis.
Some ganglion cysts go away without treatment. If the cyst is tender or unsightly, you may want treatment. Even with treatment, ganglion cysts can return.
Note: Do not attempt to smash the cyst with a heavy object, a traditional home remedy. This is unlikely to get rid of the cyst, but it is likely to cause injury.
Because many ganglion cysts disappear on their own, watching it to make sure it is improving may be all that is needed.
You may need to wear a splint on your wrist. Ganglion cysts usually get smaller with less activity and larger with more activity.
A needle is put into the cyst to drain the fluid.
A steroid solution is injected into the cyst. This is usually done after the cyst is drained.
The cyst can be surgically removed. This is done when they are large and unsightly or painful. Cysts may return even after surgery.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Ganglia (ganglion cysts). The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal_and_connective_tissue_disorders/hand_disorders/ganglia.html. Updated May 2013. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Ganglion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 6, 2014. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Ganglion cyst of the wrist and hand. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00006. Updated March 2013. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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