Ganglion Cyst (Gideon’s Disease) – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment
What is a ganglion cyst?
A ganglion cyst is a small fluid-filled sac that grows out of the tissues surrounding a joint. Ganglion cysts mostly develop on top of joints or tendons in the wrists, hands, and feet. The most frequently develop on the back of the wrist. They are not cancerous and, in most cases, are harmless.
Ganglion cysts can quickly appear, disappear, and change size. Many ganglion cysts do not require treatment.
What causes a ganglion cyst?
It is not known what causes the formation of a ganglion. They are most common in younger people between the ages of 15 and 40 years, and women are more likely to be affected than men. These cysts are also common among gymnasts, who repeatedly apply stress to the wrist.
Ganglion cysts that develop at the end joint of a finger are known as mucous cysts. These cysts are typically associated with arthritis in the finger joint and are more common in women between the ages of 40 and 70 years.
What are the symptoms of a ganglion cyst?
Most ganglion cysts form a visible lump, however smaller ganglion cysts can remain hidden under the skin (occult ganglion cysts). Although many ganglion cysts produce no other symptoms, if a cyst puts pressure on the nerves that pass through the joint, it can cause pain, tingling, and muscle weakness.
Large cysts, even if they are not painful, can cause concerns about appearance.
How is a ganglion cyst diagnosed?
During the initial appointment, your doctor will examine the ganglion cyst, discuss your medical history, and symptoms. He or she may ask you how long you have had the cyst, whether it changes in size, and whether it is painful.
The doctor may apply pressure to identify any tenderness. Because a ganglion is filled with fluid, it is translucent. Your doctor may shine a penlight up to the cyst to see whether light shines through.
Your doctor may do the following imaging tests for diagnosis:
X-ray: This imaging test is done to rule out other conditions, such as arthritis or a bone tumor.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or ultrasounds: This type of imaging test can better show a ganglion cyst. Sometimes, an MRI or ultrasound is done to find an occult ganglion cyst that is not visible, or to distinguish the cyst from other tumors.
How is a ganglion cyst on the wrist treated?
Often, a ganglion cyst goes away on its own without any treatment. However, if the cyst is painful, interferes with daily activities, or has an unacceptable appearance, there are several treatment options available.
Initially, your doctor may recommend observation. This involves just waiting and watching to make sure that no unusual changes occur.
When treated, it may involve the following:
Immobilization: Your doctor may immobilize the ganglion cyst with a wrist brace or splint if it is increasing in size and causing pain. This relieves the symptoms and decreases the size of the ganglion cyst. As pain decreases, your doctor may prescribe exercises to strengthen the wrist and improve range of motion.
Aspiration: If the ganglion causes a great deal of pain or severely limits activities, the fluid may be drained from by a procedure called aspiration. Aspiration procedures are most frequently recommended for ganglions located on the top of the wrist.
Aspiration frequently fails to eliminate the ganglion because the “root” or connection to the joint or tendon sheath is not removed. A ganglion can be like a weed which will grow back if the root is not removed. In many cases, the ganglion cyst returns after an aspiration procedure.
Surgery: Your doctor may recommend surgery if your symptoms are not relieved by the nonsurgical methods, or if the ganglion returns after aspiration. Surgery involves removing the cyst as well as part of the involved joint capsule or tendon sheath, which is considered the root of the ganglion.
Excision is typically an outpatient procedure and patients are able to go home after a period of observation in the recovery area. There may be some tenderness, discomfort, and swelling after surgery. Normal activities usually may be resumed 2 to 6 weeks after surgery.
Even after surgical removal, there is a small chance the ganglion will return.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.