Ganglion Cyst Overview
Are you experiencing a hard lump on the back side of your wrist? You may be suffering from a common ailment known as a Ganglion Cyst.
A ganglion cyst is characterized by a noticeable bump covering a joint or a tendon. Around 70% of the time they are found on the back side of the wrist (on the wrist joint) and protrude outward most noticeably when the wrist is bent downward. These cysts contain a gelatinous fluid which is viscous and clear and may feel either firm (bone like) or spongy. Ganglion Cysts are what the medical community calls idiopathic, which in lay terms means that “they form for unknown reasons.”
Some medical professionals however feel that ganglion cysts form due to an underlying dysfunction of the joints beneath the cyst. The surface area of all joints are covered by a layer of tissue called synovial lining as well as fluid called synovial fluid. When a ganglion cyst forms in the wrist area it is generally believed to be a result of distressed synovial fluid that is squeezed out from between the bones.
Who Is Susceptible to Ganglion Cysts?
In general, these cysts, also known as bible bumps (the etymology here comes from years ago when treatment involved smashing the cyst with a heavy book, often times a bible) occur more often in women. From an age perspective, they are found most often in people ranging from 20-45 years of age. It is rare to find one in a child, specifically those under age 10. Ganglion cysts can affect anyone however, so if you are a male or outside of the above age range you may still be susceptible to a cyst of this kind. Moreover, these cysts are also found more often in those who consistently put stress on their hand or wrist with repetitious motions. For instance, if your job requires you to lift small objects all day with a quick wrist motion, you may be more susceptible to cyst formation. Also, those who have osteoarthritis or have injured tendons in the wrist or feet may be more susceptible as well.
Where Else Do They Form?
Although the back of the wrist is the most common location, ganglion cysts can also form anywhere that you find a joint. They occur most commonly on the top of the foot, the knee, specifically on the outside, the ankle, the fingertips just above the cuticle lining and the base of the fingers on the palm.
Are Ganglion Cysts Dangerous?
Ganglion cysts on their own are benign. In a some cases, the cyst itself will go away on its own and will not require treatment.
How Are Ganglion Cysts Treated?
Lucky for you, modern medicine has advanced past the point of using a bible to burst the fluid sack that makes up ganglion cysts. There are a few methods that medical practitioners use to remove the cyst and its contents.
- Joint Immobilization: Since ganglion cysts can occur due to repeated stress placed on the affected joint, doctors will typically recommend that the patient immobilize the joint to allow the cyst to reduce in size. Wrist braces or splints are most commonly used at first and are in most cases very effective.
- Ganglion Cyst Aspiration: If the immobilization effort did not effectively reduce the size of the cyst, doctors generally recommend that the cyst be drained. Depending on the viscosity of the contents, doctors may first inject an enzyme into the cyst to help reduce the thickness of the containing fluid. Another needle will then be inserted into the cyst and the contents drained. Some physicians follow up the drainage with a steroid injection used to reduce the odds of recurrence.
- Ganglion Cyst Surgery: In rare cases, where neither of the above solutions have yielded positive results, physicians will resort to surgical removal of the cyst. Surgical removal aims at removing the stalk as well as the cyst. Cysts can however return even after surgery.