Ganglion cysts are swellings that most commonly develop along the tendons or joints of wrists or hands. They can be found either at the back or palm side of the wrist, end joint of a finger, or at the base of a finger. A ganglion cyst is not cancerous and will not spread to the other parts of the body. It looks like a water balloon on a stalk and contains a clear fluid or jelly material. Ganglion cysts can be found in people of all ages.
Although the exact cause of a ganglion cyst remains unknown some theories suggest that small cysts are formed when trauma damages the tissue of a joint. The most likely reason might be that these cysts occur because of local degeneration or a defect in the joint capsule or tendon sheath that permits the joint tissue to bulge outwards.
Ganglion cysts generally appear as a mass measuring from 1 to 3 centimetres in diameter. The swelling is usually soft and immobile. It may develop suddenly or gradually over time, vary in size or even disappear or reappear. Ganglion cysts can be painful. If painful, the pain may be continuous and may worsen with the movement of the joint. If the cyst is attached to a tendon, one might feel weak in the affected area.
A ganglion cyst is diagnosed by performing various examinations starting with physical examination. An ultrasound imaging can reveal whether the lump is solid or fluid filled (cystic). It can also determine if an artery or any blood vessel is causing the lump.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the wrist may also be employed to diagnose ganglion cysts.
In some cases, these cysts may disappear without any treatment. Needle aspiration can be performed to drain the fluid from the cyst using a needle, but have a high chance of recurrence. If the cyst becomes painful or limits your activity, causes numbness or tingling of the hand or fingers, surgery may recommend to remove the ganglion cyst.