Ganglion Cysts: Symptoms and Treatment Options

Updated 12/19/2023
Ganlgion Cyst, University Foot and Ankle institute

What's a ganglion cyst?

Ganglion cysts (Bible cysts) are non-harmful cysts that account for half of all soft tissue tumors.


These fluid-filled sacs typically appear as visible lumps around joints, tendons, or ligaments. The exact cause of ganglion cysts is 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 cysts are common in the feet and hands—specifically on the palm side of the wrist, the base or end joint of a finger, the toes, and the heel.

What are ganglion cyst risk factors?

While we don’t know the exact cause of ganglion cysts, there are some risk factors for acquiring them. These risk factors include:


  • Age: Ganglion cysts rarely occur in children under 10 and are most common between ages 15 and 40.
  • Sex: These cysts are more common in women than men.
  • Osteoarthritis: Ganglion cysts tend to occur in close proximity to joints affected by arthritis.
  • Injury: Injured tendons or joints are more likely to develop these cysts.
  • Overuse: Gymnasts have a higher incidence of ganglion cysts due to the repetitive stress and use of their joints.


What are 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. These cysts aren’t painful but can be uncomfortable depending on where they’re located. 


Other symptoms of a ganglion cyst include:


  • Pain or burning sensation if the cyst compresses a nerve or joint.
  • Limited range of motion if the cyst is pressing against a joint or tendon.
  • Skin irritation above the cyst.
  • Wearing shoes can be painful depending on the size of the cyst.


How are ganglion cysts diagnosed? 

Our doctors will initially perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. The physician may shine a light through the lump to learn if the cyst is liquid or solid.


Additional testing may include analysis of the ganglionic fluid, imaging tests such as X-rays or ultrasound to visualize damage to the surrounding area, or an MRI to visualize the tendons and soft tissues. Once we’ve thoroughly evaluated the cyst, we can formulate a treatment plan.


Is there non-surgical treatment for ganglion cysts? 

The podiatrists at University Foot and Ankle Institute prefer conservative treatment options when possible. If the cyst is small and not causing pain, we’ll likely take a watch-and-wait approach, asking you to return to the office to monitor the cyst’s condition. 


If there is pain, limitation of motion, or difficulty wearing shoes, we have non-surgical treatments to relieve pain. 


A splint and anti-inflammatory medications can reduce the pain and hold the joint in place while the cyst heals.


For a more direct ganglion cyst treatment, we can use aspiration (drainage) to remove the fluid from the cyst. There is a 30-50% cure rate with this procedure.


Ganglion cyst surgery: ganglionectomy

If non-surgical options fail to relieve your discomfort or the cyst comes back, we can turn to ganglion cyst removal. Surgery is minimally invasive with arthroscopy, where our surgeon views the area with a tiny camera inserted through a small incision.


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


This outpatient procedure is done in our offices. After your surgical removal, you’ll need to rest and reduce your activity level while the joint heals. 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.


University Foot and Ankle Institute (UFAI) is the best choice for ganglion cyst treatment 

You don't have to live with foot pain. There is so much innovation in podiatric medicine today, and our board-certified orthopedic surgeons are at the forefront. With decades of combined experience and the highest success rates in the nation, we have effectively treated over 200,000 patients. Foot and ankle pain is not normal. And ignoring it will likely cause your condition to worsen and become harder to treat. 


UFAI is well known as one of the nation's most technologically advanced foot and ankle practices (including sports medicine). While other practices say they know about "the latest and greatest," UFAI has been researching, running clinical trials, and performing these techniques for decades. 


We've been a leader in regenerative medicine for well over 15 years. This includes platelet-rich plasma therapy, stem cell therapy, and cartilage replacement. No other foot and ankle practice has more experience or success in developing and using human regenerative medicine.


To schedule a consultation, please call (855) 872-5249 or make an appointment online now.


University Foot and Ankle Institute is conveniently located throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area. Our foot doctors are available at locations in or near Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Northridge, Downtown Los Angeles, Westlake Village, Santa Barbara, and Valencia.



Ganglion cyst FAQs


Ganglion cyst FAQs


Can you remove a ganglion cyst yourself?

It is not advisable to attempt to remove a ganglion cyst yourself. While these cysts are usually harmless, self-removal methods, such as trying to burst the cyst, can lead to infection, injury, or recurrence.


What kind of doctor removes ganglion cysts?

A podiatrist would be the best person to remove a ganglion cyst on the foot due to their specialized training and expertise in foot and ankle anatomy, pathologies, and surgical procedures.


How long does it take to remove a cyst from the foot?

The time taken to remove a ganglion cyst from the foot varies depending on the size and location of the cyst, but most procedures are relatively quick, often completed in less than an hour. This outpatient procedure is usually performed under local anesthesia, allowing for a speedy recovery period. 


  • Foot and Ankle Surgeon at University Foot and Ankle Institute
    Dr. Johnson, Podiatrist

    Dr. Abimbola Johnson completed his undergraduate degree at Loyola University Chicago, where he played Division II rugby and was also involved in social justice clubs aimed at helping younger students prepare for college.


    Upon graduation, he entered Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, where he served as president of the practice management club and volunteered as coordinator at the Free Foot Clinic in Chicago. He served his residency at Regions Hospital/Health Partners in St. Paul.


    Dr. Johnson provides comprehensive medical and surgical care for a wide spectrum of foot and ankle conditions, including common and complex disorders and injuries. The doctor is uniquely qualified to detect the early stages of disease that exhibit warning signs in the lower extremities, such as diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.


    Dr. Johnson can be seen at our Santa Barbara location


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