Ganglion Cysts: Symptoms and Treatment Options

Updated 2/1/2019
Ganlgion Cyst, University Foot and Ankle institute

What's a Ganglion Cyst?


Ganglion cysts (also called Bible cysts), aren't harmful and account for half of all soft tissue tumors.

 

They're more common in women, and 70% occur in people between the ages of 20-40. Rarely do they occur in children younger than 10 years. Though ganglion cysts typically appear ad visible lumps in the foot or ankle, they also form around other bones or tendons of the body.

 

Ganglion cyst causes are unknown, but the most likely theory involves a flaw in the joint capsule or tendon sheath that allows the joint tissue to bulge out.

Ganglion Cyst Risk Factors

There are some known risk factors for acquiring ganglion cysts include:

 

Age and Gender

Ganglion cysts can form in anyone, but mostly occur in women between 20 and 40 years old

 

Osteoarthritis

People who have arthritis in the finger joints that are close to the fingernails are at higher risk of developing ganglion cysts close to those joints.

 

Tendon and/or Joint injury

Tendons or joints that have been injured at some point are more likely to develop these cysts.

 

Ganglion Cyst Symptoms

The development of ganglion cysts may be rapid or slow forming over several years. They may shrink, enlarge, or even disappear and reappear. They are not generally painful, ganglion cysts may cause symptoms.

 

You will first notice a small lump on your foot. The lump is most-commonly located on the top of the foot, but can be found near any of the foot’s joints or tendons. Additional symptoms may include:

 

  • Pain or Burning sensation (the cyst is pressing against a nerve, joint or tendon)
  • Limitation of motion (the cyst is pressing against a joint or tendon)
  • Skin irritation above the ganglion
  • Wearing shoes is painful due to the size of the cyst

 

How are Ganglion Cysts Diagnosed?


Your doctor will initially perform a physical exam and ask about the history of the lump. The physician may shine a light through the lump to indicate whether the fluid is liquid or solid.

 

Additional testing may include analysis of the ganglionic fluid, imaging tests (x-rays) or ultrasound to indicate damage to the surrounding area. An MRI also may be ordered.

 

Conservative Treatment of Ganglion Cysts


If the ganglion is not causing pain and is relatively small, your doctor will likely take a watch-and-wait approach, asking you to return to the office to monitor the cyst’s condition. If there is pain or limitation of motion or difficulty wearing shoes, immediate treatment may be necessary.

 

Several treatment options are available and can often be non-surgical. The least-aggressive form of treatment is called aspiration (drainage). An aspiration can be performed to remove the jelly-like fluid from the cyst (similar to synovial fluid) and decompress it and can be performed in office. 

 

Aspiration is a very simple procedure and if you have the fluid drawn out three times, your cure rate should be between 30% and 50%. But as you can see, the recurrence rate for this cyst is common. 

 

Surgical Removal of Ganglion Cysts


If non-surgical options fail to provide relief or if the cyst recurs, surgical alternatives are available.

 

The surgical procedure involves removing the cyst along with a portion of the joint capsule or tendon sheath. Surgical treatment is generally successful though cysts may recur. 

 

This procedure is done in our offices or the hospital. Rest and reduction of activities may be required after the procedure. As the pain decreases, we may prescribe physical therapy exercises to strengthen the joint and improve your range of motion.

 

The excision procedure has a significantly higher success rate than aspiration, although complications such as recurrence, joint stiffness, scar formation, and infection are possible.

 

UFAI, the Best Choice for Cyst Treatment


Our physicians are proud to offer the latest testing and diagnostic technologies to ensure accurate diagnosis. We always approach each treatment in the most non-invasive way possible to get you back on your feet and back to your activities.

  • Foot and Ankle Surgeon at University Foot and Ankle Institute
    Dr. Ryan Carter DPM, University Foot and Ankle Institute, Foot and Ankle Surgeon

    Dr. Ryan Carter attended the University of Missouri, Columbia where he received his bachelor’s degree in Biology. He then moved to Glendale, Arizona where he received his medical degree at Midwestern University Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine. While attending school, he was the President of the Midwestern University student chapter of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine.

     

    Upon completing residency at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, California, Dr. Carter received an additional year of training at the Silicon Valley Reconstructive Foot and Ankle Fellowship with Palo Alto Medical Foundation. During his time there he continued to train in sports medicine, arthroscopy, foot and ankle trauma, minimally invasive surgery, and total ankle replacement.

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