Prime Health Channel

What is a Ganglion Cyst?

Ganglion cyst or a bible cyst is a rounded lump, which is generally present on a muscle tendon near a joint. It is typically noticed as a slow growing or static swelling, which is painless and does not cause any functional restriction. Historically, ganglion cysts were treated by hitting them with a bible, and hence the name, “bible cyst“. Except the unsightly appearance, ganglion cysts are completely harmless and have absolutely no propensity of becoming cancerous.

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A neurofibroma is a similar lump occurring on nerves and has been known for cancerous transformation. Hence, it is very important to know whether one has a ganglion cyst or a neurofibroma.

Ganglion Cyst Causes and Symptoms

Ganglion cysts are filled with fluid which is quite similar to the synovial fluid of a joint. Though an absolute causal relation has not been established, yet many ganglion cysts are thought to arise from the joint capsule. Friction between a joint and the overlying tendons may have a major role in causing ganglion cysts.

Ganglion Cyst in Wrist

Ganglion cysts on wrist joint are exceedingly common. Ganglion cyst in wrist are located on the back of the wrist above the wrist bones scaphoid and lunate and are called dorsal ganglion cysts. Ganglion cysts on the front of wrist are called volar ganglion cysts. The size of a ganglion cyst in wrist may vary from a pea to a small lemon, but sometimes it can be large enough to cover the entire wrist. Larger ganglion cysts, though quite rare, tend to restrict wrist motion to some extent. Many people with concurrent carpal tunnel syndrome or other ailments tend to wrongly attribute the ganglion cyst in wrist as a cause of their pain. But, it is a misconception, as ganglion cysts are never painful.

Ganglion Cyst Finger

Similar to wrist, a ganglion cyst in finger is present near the first or second inter-phalengeal joint on the outer aspect. Even a small ganglion cyst in finger or a ganglion cyst in thumb can lead to a faulty grip or inability to fluently use the hand. Longstanding ganglion cyst in finger can cause a permanent finger deformity. Hence, such ganglion cysts should be promptly removed.

Ganglion Cyst Foot

The most common site for a ganglion cyst in foot is just below and in front of the ankle. Ganglion cysts in toe can be particularly problematic for wearing shoes or sandals with a pointed tip. This is the place where several small ankle bones, joints, and tendons, are present, making it a highly dynamic area of the foot. They frequently remain unnoticed or are discovered incidentally during

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foot examination for some other reason. Sometimes an increase in the size of a ganglion cyst in foot makes wearing of shoes difficult or even painful.

Ganglion Cysts in Knee

It was earlier thought that, “Baker’s cyst” presenting on the back of knee, is a type of ganglion cyst in knee. Also a number of similar affections of the knee arise due to inflammation and infection of bursa’s around the knee. However, these are distinctly different than a ganglion cyst and should not be confused with it.

Pictures of Ganglion Cyst

Picture 1: Volar Ganglion Cyst on Wrist

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Picture 2: Dorsal Ganglion Cyst on Wrist

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Picture 3: Ganglion Cysts in Wrist and Finger

(Source: Pole Star Miami)

Ganglion Cyst Treatment

Firstly, there is nothing like ganglion cyst home treatment, because it requires surgical treatment, and that too after a through evaluation by an orthopedic or general surgeon. During initial visit to a surgeon, investigations, like Ultrasound (USG), X-ray, and routine blood counts, would be done to confirm

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the diagnosis, and is an important step in treating a ganglion cyst. If it is not causing any specific symptoms, like pain or restricted movement, a ganglion cyst should be left alone. Conservative methods like aspiration of ganglion cyst or needling followed by hyaluronidase therapy may be tried. This is especially important for volar ganglion of wrist, which is many times almost embedded to important wrist blood vessels. Removal of ganglion cyst in this area can cause an injury to blood vessels and compromise the bloody supply of the entire hand !

Ganglion Cyst Excision (Removal) Surgery

Normally, a ganglion cyst excision surgery is a simple procedure, as the ganglion cyst is generally not too deep. But the close proximity of blood vessels and tendons always leaves the possibility of complications and potentially grave outcomes. Hence, surgery for ganglion cyst excision should be performed by an experienced surgeon of the area in which the ganglion cyst is present. Removal of ganglion cyst in its entirety should be ensured, as breaking of the ganglion cyst during removal causes some of its parts to remain inside the body, and are prone to recurrence.

Arthroscopic ganglion cyst excision is the latest trend in treatment of ganglion cyst. It involves passing an optic fiber through a small incision, which helps proper visualization of the cyst and careful removal through a smaller second incision. This not only ensures complete removal of the intact ganglion cyst, but also helps in early healing of

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the surgical wound and preventing recurrence.


23 Responses

  1. jonac.k says:

    my son has got a similar lump in his shoulder, can ganglion cyst occur in should as well? or is it something different?

  2. karthik says:

    Are their any ganglion cysts homeopathy remedies which can be used instead of going for a surgery?

  3. Allan says:

    I was reading some articles on the internet about ganglion cyst and its removal. I came across one such article which mentioned that bee venom can reduce ganglion cyst. I am not sure whether its right. Please throw some light on this.

  4. Dr Gauresh says:

    Generally ganglions are uncommon in shoulder.. It must be a lipoma mostly.

  5. Dr Gauresh says:

    Not in my knowledge. It has to be removed surgically or else left alone.

  6. Dr Gauresh says:

    Such measures are not effective on a long term basis cause there is a high chance of recurrence. And one never knows what damage the venom might cause on other parts of the body. So kindly beware.

  7. Angela says:

    @dr gauresh – my husband has got a ganglion cyst in his wrist and looks almost the same as the image you have provided in the article. He is not too keen on having a surgery though, would this create any complications if we leave that untreated?

  8. hasan says:

    what is the cost of ganglion cyst removal surgery? Also what sort of recovery time is there after the surgery? Would i be able to go to work within 1-2 days?

  9. Dr Gauresh says:

    @Angela, Hi,
    Mostly it is fine to leave it alone. Unless it starts paining or rapidly increasing in size.

    @Hasan, Hi,
    The cost depends on the hospital that you visit. Its also based on the surgeon you consult. These factors vary quite a lot from region to region so I cant comment on the cost. After surgery its a small dressing that you have to keep for 7 days until suture removal. Mostly one can go to work on the next day itself so that shouldnt be a problem.

  10. Noeline says:

    I have an Intraosseous ganglion cysts in my Lunate bone, the dr removed and did a bone transplant. But the bone never healed after nearly 3 years. Now I have another cyst in another bone in my wrist. The dr said this would not spread. My wrist is now very painfull. How do I know this will not spread any further, if not already. And may I loose the use of my wrist?

  11. Ok i was reading all the info about the ganglion cysts… I had two of them on my left wrist and one on top of left hand.. Had one for years and then the other popped up… Not long after the new one popped up the one on my wrist was hurting real bad keeping me up at night throbbing …. Its just funny and i know your a doctor and educated on these, but they do hurt depending the situation… So i go to the thir doctor i seen in three months time of this pain… Great guy i told him i had it asperated .. They filled back up. I was sent to a neroligist. Tested for carpal tunnel why i dont know. Cause they figured i shouldnt be in pain if it was just a cyst so it had to be something else. Anyway he looks at it i tell him please do something im tired of getting the run around and tired of the pain. My insurance would not cover a mri. So we scheduled surgery anyway. Four hours latter, he tells me that it grew through my tendon and he had to repair it . He said he never seen one do that. He even sent it for bi

  12. laura says:

    I have a ganglia that broke open and is draining. Any suggestions?

  13. Marie says:

    I’ve had my cyst on the top of my wrist. 6th months ago I had it aspirated and it came back more painful than ever. I can’t even move my wrist without being in pain. My parents and I are considering surgery. I’m the type of person that stresses everything so I’m worried about what could go wrong while in surgery. Please respond.

  14. Justin T. says:

    Hi,
    I am a professional golfer/instructor and I have a ganglion on the underside of my wrist and sometimes it cause a tinge in my golf swing. I can’t afford to not swing a club for week after week and I am afraid that is what surgery is going to cause. What would you suggest? Maybe splinting it when I am not swinging a golf club???

  15. SAMANTHA says:

    I have a ganglion cyst on the back of my thumb. i saw the doctor the other day and he said i need surgery. i didnt get to discuss with him how long it takes to heal? does anyone know?

  16. Britt says:

    To Marie Justin and Samantha
    Surgery is actually the best option. More than half of aspirated cysts come back only about 15% come back after surgery. I had one on the back of my wrist. Splinting and anti inflammatory drugs did no good mine was pushing on the nerves and muscles when I moved so it hurt and I elected for surgery. Time in in surgery was about 30 minutes, I was out of the surgery center in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Cost varies by doctor and surgery center but mine was about $1300 out of pocket. Most insurances will cover this (especially if your in pain) but you have to meet your deductible first generally. Recovery varies but I had a wrapped splint for 10 days so the incision will heal before you try to move it. During that time you will have finger movement which you are encouraged to do but overuse will make you sore (so lots of typing may wear your hand out). Also you may never use your painkillers. I used 1 and got really dizzy so I took Tylenol for three and did not need it after that. You will swell for the first 2 or 3 days so keep it elevated and you will itch for the last five days before the splint is removed (do not scratch under the bandage this is a natural part of healing take benadryl if you can’t stand it). After ten days, the splint and sutures are removed (suture removal may hurt) and your doctor will ask you to start bending and using your wrist and stretching things back out (bend only as much as you are able to don’t try to bend all the way at first let pain be your guide if it hurts don’t do it). You should also put a healing cream with with vitamin e and/or zinc in it on the wound (I used bacitracin and vitamin e tablets that I poked a hole in). Use the cream for healing and to massage the scar tissue out (massage scar tissue for about 3-5 minutes once or twice a day and don’t use so much pressure that you hurting yourself). It can take as much as 6 weeks to get full range of motion back. For Marie, dangers during surgery are minimal. Normally they do a regional anesthesia on your arm and they may lightly sedate you. They’ll also give you an antibiotic to prevent infection and a good doctor won’t do the surgery if you have any kind of scratch or open wound near where the incision site will be (even a little one). So as long as you follow doctors orders and keep the splint clean and dry you’ll be fine

  17. Stephanie says:

    I’ve had 3 surgeries and now have my 5th ganglion cyst on the top of my left foot. In my last surgery, the tendons in the area where the cysts keep appearing were burned down to supposedly create enough scarring that it was supposed to suppress them from developing again. So what’s the next step?

  18. Tami says:

    I have taken care of two ganglion cysts in about 10 years. I smacked them with a wooden spoon. It is immediately broken and gone, done, kaput, adios cyst! These cysts were also called “Baker’s cysts” in the “old” days! Forget the surgery!

  19. Dale says:

    I have had two removed surgically, no return, and one drained and given cortisone, which has returned and is painfull because it is on the thumb joint which I use everyday in my job. I am hoping to have it removed surgically. I also have one on my wrist below the thumb area, this one never hurts and causes me no grief except when people notice it and question about it. I have been told when my other two were removed surgically that the surgeon did not want to touch it as there were too many arteries close to it. Is there something perhaps in ones diet that would cause these to keep forming?

  20. susan says:

    @all I just had aganglion remove I taugh everything went well,I was never given an antibiotics,I was never told to hang my wrist,d 2nd day my right hand was swollen and etremely painful,after 9days the stitches were removed and I was told it was infected,nw its 4weeks and I’m still in pains I can’t move my wrist and can’t fold my fiingers after an x-ray it happens that somehow d doctor mistakenly shifted I bone in my wrist and now I’m directed to an ortho! Is it for another surgery?I’m so upset right now

  21. melissa says:

    I had a ganglion cyst removed from the top of my wrist. It has only been 9 days but I can not move my thumb. I am really upset because I am afraid that something went wrong in the surgery. Please help me out if anyone knows anything about that.

  22. kelly says:

    I have a doral ganglion cyst on my right hand but it kinda small but sometimes painfull … sometimes it gets smaller and increase its size but it never grows bigger then it was .. what do you thing I should do ?? Should I get a surgrey done for I could use my right hand better && it won’t mess me up in school??

  23. moha gago says:

    hi, i am moha gago in somalia,to my point of view, it has to be removed surgically.

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