Ganglion cysts are masses that form near joints and tendons on the wrist, ankle, hand, or foot. They are typically filled with a thick fluid, although the consistency can vary considerably from case to case.
Cysts come in many different sizes, with some of them reaching an inch and a half across and others barely noticeable. They’re usually round in shape, although depending on the location, they can also develop an oval-like configuration.
This type of growth rarely develops deep within tissue, meaning that it resides near the skin’s surface.
Are Ganglion Cysts Harmful?
Although large lumps on the body are usually not a good sign, in the case of ganglion cysts, there is little danger to health.
These cysts are benign, non-cancerous. They also don’t tend to form near areas with significant potential for harm, such as major blood vessels, and the biological material found within is simply an excess of naturally occurring bodily fluids.
Beyond the formation of a lump, they’re largely painless and asymptomatic in most instances. However, some can be painful if they press up against a nerve or a large muscle group. Similarly, it’s possible for these cysts to produce a numbing sensation or make muscle movement difficult if found in a particular spot.
What Causes Ganglion Cysts?
It’s not very well-established what causes ganglion cysts, although there’s enough information available to make an educated guess or substantial hypothesis.
The fluid found within ganglion cysts is the same substance used to coat tendons and joints that would otherwise experience damage from friction without it.
It’s been proposed that small amounts of damage caused to joints over time can lead to tiny lacerations that don’t heal properly. Lubricating fluid then begins to leak out, leading to the formation of ganglion cysts.
The idea is corroborated by the fact that ganglion cysts occur most frequently in those who have experienced some sort of ligament injury.
While the exact cause of these cysts isn’t known, it’s common to find them among women younger than 40 and among those who have osteoarthritis.
How Are They Diagnosed?
Ganglion cysts are relatively simple to diagnose, as they’re growths that occur in particular places. It’s also easy to differentiate them from other kinds of growths, as the fluid found within ganglion cysts is partially see-through when a light is shone through it.
In the event a medical professional believes further examination is required, they might send the fluid to a laboratory to be analyzed or simply take out some of the fluid to be visually examined.
Under exceptional circumstances, such as if it’s incredibly small, a cyst might be evaluated using an x-ray or MRI machine.
What Are Some Treatments?
Treatment isn’t usually necessary for ganglion cysts, as it’s common for them to go away on their own. However, in the event that treatment is deemed necessary, there are a couple possibilities.
The cyst can simply be drained by a doctor using a sharp instrument (aspiration), or the limb where the cyst is located can be wrapped in a brace to prevent further micro-lacerations.
If the cyst doesn’t appear to be going away on its own, it can be surgically removed and the source of the fluid leakage repaired.