How to Get Rid of a Ganglion Cyst
Typically found on the tendons or joints of your hands or wrists, ganglion cysts are fluid-filled noncancerous lumps. You might notice a bump near your joint that looks like a tiny balloon, and this might signal that it’s a cyst. These uncomfortable and unsightly bumps aren’t dangerous, but they might cause you discomfort and pain if they’re located near certain joints. Many ganglion cysts don’t require specific treatment, but there are several treatment options available.
What Is a Ganglion Cyst?
As the most common type of lump or mass, ganglion cysts are usually found on the hand. They’re not cancerous, typically harmless, and about 1 to 3 centimeters in diameter. They grow out of the tissue surrounding the joint, such as the ligament, joint lining, or tendon sheath. Inside the cyst lies a thick and slippery fluid that is similar to the fluid that lubricates joints.
They can quickly appear, disappear, and change sizes. The shape of the cysts largely depends on the amount of activity you do. For instance, if the cyst is near your wrist, continually using your wrist without a brace can cause the cyst to grow larger. Conversely, allowing your wrist to rest might cause the cyst to become smaller.
What Increases Your Risk of Getting a Ganglion Cyst?
It’s not known what actually triggers the formation of a ganglion cyst. People ages 15 through 40 as well as women are more likely to experience cysts. It’s also thought that gymnasts are more likely to get them since they constantly apply pressure to their wrists.
What Symptoms Might You Experience?
Most ganglion cysts form a visible lump on or near the joint, but smaller ones can remain under the skin. Although many of these cysts produce no other symptoms than visible ones, certain ones can put pressure on nerves that pass through the joint. If this occurs, you might experience a tremendous amount of pain, a tingling sensation, or muscle weakness. Also, depending on its location, it might restrict certain movements.
How Is a Ganglion Cyst Diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing pain or the cyst interferes with your daily activities, make sure you consult a doctor to determine what steps are needed. When you visit your doctor, you will provide a thorough history and undergo a physical exam. In more complicated exams, you might need to undergo an ultrasound so the doctor can confirm the growth is due to fluid and not a solid mass.
Another option to diagnose the cyst is for the doctor to perform an MRI since this can look for smaller cysts that might not be visible to the naked eye. The doctor might also use an MRI to determine if the cyst is attached to an underlying tendon or to ensure that the symptoms aren’t the same as those found in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
However, there are some instances in which an MRI doesn’t detect the cyst, so surgery might be the best method to diagnose and treat the cyst. After the surgery, the removed cyst is usually sent to a pathologist for confirmation of the diagnosis.
What Methods Are Available to Remove a Ganglion Cyst?
Because ganglion cysts are non-cancerous and might disappear with time, you might not need to do anything to remove them. Using warm compresses might increase blood circulation and promote fluid drainage, but they will not prevent the cyst from growing. Your doctor might recommend just keeping an eye on the cyst to make sure no unusual changes occur. However, certain types of cysts must be surgically removed, especially if the non-surgical options don’t work. It’s often thought that surgery is a last resort in removing the cyst.
If your doctor isn’t concerned enough to perform any procedure on your ganglion cyst, you might end up wearing a brace to prevent movement. This is only an option if the cyst is on an area such as your wrist where you can place a brace. Since it limits movement, the brace can allow the cyst to shrink and minimize the pain caused by the cyst pressing on the nearby nerves.
One way to non-surgically remove the cyst is to have a doctor drain it through a process called aspiration. During this procedure, the doctor numbs the area around the cyst and uses a needle to puncture the cyst, withdrawing fluid. Doing this causes the cyst to shrink. However, because aspiration only drains the cyst, there’s a possibility of it growing back after the procedure is completed. The cyst can be like a weed that will grow back unless the root is removed instead of just drained.
The surgical removal of a ganglion cyst involves an outpatient procedure in which you are placed under local or general anesthesia. The doctor typically marks to cyst by drawing a line above it to make note of the incision location. During the procedure, the doctor will numb the treatment area and then use a scalpel to cut along the line.
From there, the doctor locates the cyst and cuts it out of the area along with its capsule. Afterward, the doctor stitches the opening closed so the skin can heal. You should be able to go home after a period of observation once the procedure ends. It typically takes about two to six weeks to fully recover from this procedure. Keep in mind that even after the excision, there’s a small chance the cyst will return.
If you believe you have a ganglion cyst, it’s best to consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. In the Dallas, Texas, area, the Hand and Wrist Institute can help you with your ganglion cyst. Renowned hand, wrist, and upper extremity surgeon Dr. John Knight has 25-plus years of experience and has performed more than 20,000 procedures. He can make an accurate diagnosis and provide quality care through conservative measures, with surgery often the last resort. Since the goal is to help you live a pain-free life, let the Hand and Wrist Institute help you deal with your ganglion cyst.