Ganglion Cyst

What is a ganglion cyst?

A ganglion cyst is a swollen, closed sac under the skin. The sac is attached to the sheath of a tendon or may be attached to a joint. The cyst contains fluid similar to the fluid that is in your joints. It can vary in size from a small pea to a golf ball. Ganglion cysts most often occur on the wrist, at the end joint of a finger, or at the base of a finger. They may also occur on the foot.

What is the cause?

The cause of ganglion cysts is not known.

What are the symptoms?

You may feel discomfort or pain. Sometimes the area of the cyst becomes swollen or disfigured.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you. If there is any question about the diagnosis, your healthcare provider may stick a needle into the cyst to take a sample of the fluid inside it. The fluid can be tested for other problems, such as infection.

How is it treated?

Sometimes cysts eventually go away whether they are treated or not. Unless a cyst hurts, it does not need to be treated.

If the cyst is painful, to help relieve pain:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the area for up to 20 minutes at a time every 3 to 4 hours, or at least once daily, until it gets less painful.
  • Take pain medicine, such as ibuprofen, as directed by your provider.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
    • Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye's syndrome.

Your healthcare provider may inject steroid medicine into the cyst to reduce swelling.

Your healthcare provider could remove fluid from the cyst with a needle or syringe, but the cyst might fill up with fluid again.

If a ganglion cyst is painful, interferes with your activities, or is unsightly, it can be surgically removed. Surgery to remove the cyst requires making a small cut through the skin. The cut usually heals quickly and leaves a small scar. However, even with surgical treatment, a cyst may come back.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent ganglion cysts?

Doctors don’t know how to prevent these cysts because they don’t know what causes them.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Copyright ©2014 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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