Synovial Cyst vs. Ganglion Cyst: What’s the Difference?

Synovial cysts and ganglion cysts are common benign growths that can develop around joints and tendons, causing discomfort and affecting mobility. Despite how common they are, it can be tricky to determine whether you have a synovial or ganglion cyst and what the differences are. Our team at The Hand and Wrist Institute will help you explore the differences between synovial cysts and ganglion cysts, their underlying causes, their symptoms, and the varied treatment approaches.

Synovial vs. Ganglion Cyst: What’s the Difference?

Synovial cysts and ganglion cysts are lumps caused by a buildup of fluid that develops near joints or tendons. Synovial cysts originate from the synovial membrane, which lines the joints and produces synovial fluid. They’re usually linked to joint degeneration or arthritis. Synovial cysts are generally encased in tissue and are often located around larger joints, such as the knee, hip, shoulder, or spine. They may or may not be connected to a joint’s cavity.

Ganglion cysts usually stem from the lining of a joint capsule or tendon sheath, connecting to a joint’s cavity. Unlike synovial cysts, ganglion cysts are visible lumps that grow closer to the surface of the skin on the hands, wrists, or feet, but they can also occur elsewhere. Ganglion cysts contain a jelly-like substance similar to synovial fluid. Both types of cysts are typically benign and can cause similar symptoms, such as pain or discomfort.

Symptoms of Synovial Cysts and Ganglion Cysts

Symptoms of synovial cysts and ganglion cysts can vary depending on their size, location, and whether they’re pressing on nearby structures. Common symptoms may include:


The following treatments for synovial cysts and ganglion cysts may vary based on the size of the cyst, location, severity of symptoms, and individual patient preferences:

The choice of treatment depends on various factors, such as the specific characteristics of the cyst, severity of symptoms, and your overall health and treatment goals. A health care provider may need to perform imaging studies or other diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the most appropriate treatment for you.

How To Avoid Synovial Cysts and Ganglion Cysts

While it’s not possible to prevent synovial cysts and ganglion cysts completely, there are steps you can take to protect your joints from damage and reduce your risk of developing them:

While these strategies can help reduce the risk of synovial and ganglion cysts, it’s important to remember that some factors contributing to cyst formation may be beyond your control, such as genetic predisposition or certain medical conditions. If you have concerns about your joint health or risk of cyst formation, consult with a health care professional at our Dallas or Southlake office for personalized guidance and recommendations.

When To Visit a Doctor

If you experience joint pain or swelling or notice a lump on your skin that persists or worsens over time, schedule an appointment with us at The Hand and Wrist Institute to identify and address any underlying issues before they progress and potentially lead to cysts. We can provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to get you on the road to recovery. Contact our Dallas or Southlake office today to schedule an appointment.

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.