Ganglion cysts are filled with synovial fluid, a jelly-like liquid that surrounds and protects your joints or tendons. A ganglion cyst occurs when synovial fluid leaks out and forms a liquid-filled sac under your skin.
Ganglion cysts most often affect the wrist, but you can also get them on your fingers, ankles or feet. They can range in size from a pea to a plum and may shrink or swell over time.
Ganglion cysts can occasionally cause joint pain or stiffness, but most don’t need treating. They’re non-cancerous and won’t spread or lead to long-term health problems.
Eventually, a ganglion cyst may go away by itself. However, successful treatments are available if a ganglion cyst is causing symptoms or if you’re bothered by the appearance.
The main symptom of a ganglion cyst is a smooth lump that appears under your skin. Ganglion cysts are most often found on:
The lump or swelling usually causes no trouble at all. However, you may have pain, tingling, numbness or stiffness in the nearby joint.
See your GP if you have a fluid-filled lump under your skin or have pain, numbness or tingling in your hand or wrist. Your GP will usually be able to diagnose a ganglion cyst by asking about your symptoms and medical history and by examining the swelling. They may refer you for an X-ray, ultrasound scan or an MRI scan to rule out other conditions such as osteoarthritis or, very rarely, a bone tumour.
It isn’t always clear why synovial fluid leaks out of your joint and forms a ganglion cyst. Ganglion cysts can occur for anyone at any age, but are more common:
A ganglion cyst often goes away on its own, although this can take time. If it doesn’t, treatments to ease ganglion pain and stiffness include:
If these don’t work, your doctor may recommend aspiration. This is a quick procedure to drain fluid from the ganglion cyst using a thin needle and syringe.
Another option is ganglion removal by excision. This is a short operation to cut the ganglion cyst out. You can discuss with your doctor which treatment might benefit you.
Find out more or book an appointment at your local Spire hospital.