What are Ganglion Cysts?
A ganglion cyst, also known as a “ganglion,” is a non-cancerous lump that typically forms along the tendons or joints of the wrists, hands, fingers, ankles, or feet. These cysts are filled with a jelly-like fluid and often appear as a small, round, or oval bump under the skin. Ganglion cysts are usually painless, but they can cause discomfort if they press on nerves or nearby structures.
The exact cause of ganglion cysts is not always clear, but they are thought to develop due to irritation or trauma to the joint or tendon sheath, leading to the accumulation of synovial fluid within a cystic structure. They may also form as a result of joint degeneration or underlying inflammatory conditions.
Ganglion cysts typically present with the following characteristics:
- Lump: A visible lump or bump that may be soft or firm, located near a joint or tendon.
- Size: The size of ganglion cysts can vary. They can be as small as a pea or as large as a golf ball.
- Pain: While many ganglion cysts are painless, some can cause discomfort, especially if they press on nerves or interfere with joint movement.
- Changes in Size: Ganglion cysts may change in size over time, becoming larger or smaller, and can even spontaneously disappear.
Treatment for ganglion cysts depends on the size, location, symptoms, and the individual’s preferences. Options include:
- Observation: If the cyst is painless and not causing any functional problems, a “wait-and-see” approach may be taken.
- Aspiration: The fluid from the cyst can be drained using a needle and syringe. However, this approach may have a higher recurrence rate, as the cyst’s capsule is not removed.
- Corticosteroid Injection: Injecting a corticosteroid medication into the cyst can help reduce inflammation and shrink the cyst. This is often combined with aspiration.
- Surgery: Surgical removal of the cyst and its associated capsule may be recommended if the cyst is causing pain, interfering with joint movement, or if non-surgical treatments are not effective. Surgery also reduces the likelihood of recurrence.
- Home Remedies: While not medically proven, some people attempt home remedies such as using warm compresses, or “smashing” the cyst with a heavy book (not recommended due to risk of injury and recurrence).
Even after treatment, ganglion cysts can recur. The recurrence rate varies depending on the type of treatment used.
It’s important to have any lump or bump examined by a healthcare professional to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management. If you suspect you have a ganglion cyst or are experiencing discomfort related to a lump, consult a doctor for proper evaluation and recommendations tailored to your situation.
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