Authored by Revere Health

What is This Painful Bump on My Wrist?

September 18, 2017 | Orthopedics

Ranging in size, ganglion cysts are categorized as non cancerous lumps that generally tend to develop along the tendons or joints in the wrists or hands, and can also be found in the ankles and feet. Ganglion cysts are usually round or oval-shaped and are filled with a jelly-like fluid.

Ganglion cysts can be painful when they press down on nerves, and they can interfere with regular joint movement depending on their location. In other situations, they may have no symptoms and require no treatment before disappearing on their own. Here’s what you need to know about Ganglion cysts.

Causes and Risk Factors

There are no known causes of the development of ganglion cysts. What is known is that they grow out of joints or the lining of a tendon, appearing like a small water balloon on a stalk. They tend to occur when tissue surrounding a joint or tendon bulges out of place. The cysts are filled with a thick, lubricating fluid—similar to the fluid one would find supporting joints and tendons.

A few factors might increase your risk level for ganglion cysts:

  • Age and gender: Ganglion cysts are possible for anyone, but they are most common in women between ages 20 and 40.
  • Osteoarthritis: People with osteoarthritis, or wear-and-tear arthritis, in the finger joints near the fingernails are at a higher risk of ganglion cysts developing near these joints.
  • Joint or tendon injury: People who have suffered joint or tendon injuries in the past are more likely to develop ganglion cysts in these areas.

Diagnosis and Treatment Methods

Diagnosis of ganglion cysts may only require a physical exam, during which your doctor might apply pressure to the cyst to test discomfort. Your doctor may also try to shine a light through the cyst, as a means of determining if it’s a solid mass or is filled with liquid. In some cases, your doctor might recommend imaging tests like an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI, mostly to rule out other conditions or locate hidden cysts. As confirmation of a cyst diagnosis, your doctor may use a needle and syringe to draw out fluid from the cyst (a process called aspiration), which should appear thick and clear or translucent.

In many cases, ganglion cysts are painless and do not require specific treatment. In these cases, your doctor may recommend a wait-and-see approach to allow the cyst to clear on its own. If the cyst is painful or interfering with joint movement, however, treatment methods may include:

  • Immobilization: Activity can increase the size of a cyst, and it may be helpful to immobilize the area using a brace or splint. As the cyst shrinks, the hope is that it releases pressure on the nerves and relieves the pain. Long-term use of a splint or brace can weaken nearby muscles, however, so avoid this if possible.
  • Aspiration: A process in which your doctor removes fluid from the cyst using a needle. Cysts may still recur after aspiration.
  • Surgery: If other treatments fail, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to remove the cyst and the stalk that attaches to the joint or tendon. In some rare cases, this surgery can injure the nerves, blood vessels or tendons surrounding the cyst. In addition, cysts can still recur after surgery.

If you have a ganglion cyst that requires attention, your doctor can help you with proper diagnosis and a treatment plan if necessary.




“Ganglion cyst.” The Mayo Clinic.

“Ganglion Cyst.” WebMD.



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