Ganglion Cyst

What Is A Ganglion Cyst?

Ganglion Cyst

It can be annoying and frightening to see a ganglion cyst growing on your hand or wrist, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ganglion cysts are the most common soft tissue swellings of the hand and wrist. They are benign (non-cancerous), fluid-filled cysts that can occur at any age and from any joint or tendon sheath. 

The fluid that fills the ganglion cyst is similar to that found in joints and tendons. Some ganglion cysts will disappear and others may cause problems due to large growth. 


Causes of a Ganglion Cyst

It is unclear what causes the formation of ganglion cysts, but there is some evidence that they may be related to prior trauma or arthritis. It grows out of a joint, and seems to occur when the tissue that surrounds a joint or a tendon swells out of place. 

Symptoms of a Ganglion Cyst

If you have a ganglion cyst, some characteristics that you may notice include: 

  • Raised, fluid-filled lumps near your wrist or finger joints
  • A round, firm, and smooth shape

Generally, ganglion cysts are painless unless they put pressure on a nerve. 

You may be aware that when you use the affected joints more, the cyst can become larger. This is normal, as the cyst can change in size according to your activity level. 

Our specialists can diagnose a ganglion cyst during an office visit through an exam or by aspirating the cyst. Aspiration involves using a needle and syringe to draw out the fluid in the cyst. Other diagnostic tests that we might use include an X-ray to rule out other conditions or an MRI or ultrasound to gain information about the cyst or to look for a ganglion cyst that is expected but not visible in an exam.

This list should be used as a guideline. Not every symptom is included. If you or a loved one has one or more of these symptoms, it does not mean that he or she has a ganglion cyst. If you are concerned that you or a loved one might have a ganglion system, please make an appointment with your doctor.


Treatments for a Ganglion Cyst

At the Yale Hand and Microsurgery Program, our team specializes in surgical and non-surgical treatment of the hand and wrist.

The most common form of treatment of a ganglion cyst is the “wait and see” approach, especially if it is not causing any pain. Wearing a brace may help by reducing mobility of the affected joint. Some ganglion cysts will resolve on their own; others may remain small without causing any issues. 

If you have a large ganglion cyst that is causing pain, you may require treatment. Often you can have the fluid drained at an office visit. In 60 percent of the cases, however, the ganglion cyst recurs. To prevent or minimize the chance of recurrence, you can have the cyst removed surgically. The surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia.