A ganglion cyst is a benign swelling or bump that most commonly occurs on the back-side of the hand and wrist or on the palm-side of the wrist and originates from a joint or tendon sheath. Although, ganglion cysts can also occur around any part of a finger or thumb. A ganglion cyst is basically a sac that contains a thick, clear, jelly-like substance which usually feels smooth and firm but can be squishy. Depending on its location in the hand or wrist, the cyst may freely move around, or it may have very little or no movement. Ganglion cysts are very common but have various patterns of appearance and symptoms which can be unpredictable. Some ganglion cysts can be very small, yet can be painful and bothersome. While larger, very noticeable ganglion cysts can be painless or cause minimal symptoms. The cysts are also capable of changing in size, and at times, can simply disappear on their own.
Conservative treatment is typically done initially. Since some ganglion cysts can disappear on their own, your doctor may recommend observation. If the ganglion cyst is significantly large, becomes painful, or interferes with your activities, your doctor may offer treatment such as removing the jelly-like fluid or rupturing the cyst with a needle. For those patients who experience pain in the wrist, additional treatment with a corticosteroid injection may also be offered. However, there is a high chance the cyst will return with these treatment options.
For those cysts that become problematic, painful, or fail conservative treatment, surgery alternatives are available. Surgery is generally successful for alleviation of pain and more effective in preventing formation of another cyst. Dr. Katz will further discuss expectations of surgery for ganglion cyst excision in detail.