A ganglion cyst is a lump that occurs due to the accumulation of jelly-like fluid over the joints of the arm or wrist. These are non-cancerous tumours that are also called as bible cysts.
Ganglion cysts are observed as a single large cyst that forms a spherical or oval shape. These cysts are either a single large cyst or multiple small cysts that appear as a single unit.
The prevalence of ganglion cyst is common in people between the age groups 20-40 years, although a maximum number of these cases are reported among women. However, this condition is rarely observed in children below 10 years of age.
A ganglion cyst can be observed in the following parts of the body:
- The joints of the knee or ankle
- The end of fingertips
- Along the base of the palms
- Above the foot
The symptoms of Ganglion cyst include:
- An unusual lump or mass formation at the joint of the hands or feet
- The lump is usually soft and may measure upto 1-3 centimetres in diameter
- A feeling of pain at the site of lump formation
- Chronic pain on joint movements
- Disappearance and reappearance of the cyst along the hands and feet
- Weakness of the hand or feet where the cyst is adjoining a nerve
The exact cause of ganglion cyst is not known; however, studies show that the swelling and enlargement of the tissue surrounding the joint may lead to cyst formation. It was also observed that the fluid within the cyst was similar to the fluid released from the tendons and the joints.
The factors that increase the risk of developing ganglion cyst are:
- Age: People between 20-40 years of age are at a risk of developing ganglion cyst
- Gender: Women are at a greater risk of developing the condition
- Joint disorders: Individuals suffering from osteoarthritis are at a risk of developing ganglion cyst as due to increased friction between the joints
- Injury of the tendons and the joints: Any previous accident or injury of the bones or joints increase the risk of developing ganglion cyst
Physical examination is performed to determine the size and the location of the ganglion cyst.
A slight pressure is applied over the lump that helps in establishing the tenderness of the cyst. The tenderness or hardness of the ganglion cyst provides scope for further diagnosis and treatment. The other diagnostic tests for ganglion cyst include:
- Image scans: Imaging scan such as X-ray, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is performed to determine any underlying cause of the cyst formation such as a tumour, arthritis or bone injury. MRI scan also helps in detecting the presence of occult cyst formation.
- Tissue aspiration test: The test is performed by inserting a thin needle or tube into the ganglion cyst. The fluid aspirate is then expelled out through the syringe. The viscosity of the fluid helps in confirming the condition.
- Other Laboratory tests: The tests include complete blood cell (CBC) count, culture tests and urine test that help in determining any underlying cause of inflammation or infection in the body.
Ganglion cyst tends to disappear without the need for any treatment. However, treatment is essential when the cyst causes chronic pain or increase in size over time.
The treatment for ganglion cyst includes:
- Aspiration: The procedure is performed by inserting a needle for the extraction of the fluid aspirate from the cyst. The fluid drained out from the cyst helps in relieving pain and stress in the nerve of the hands and feet.
- Surgery: The surgery is a choice of treatment when other treatment procedures are not effective. It is performed by removing the cyst and the affected tissues that are attached to the joint or tendon. The surgery may rarely cause damage to the nerves, blood vessels and tendons surrounding the ganglion cyst.
- Other treatment options: The other treatment option may include immobilization of the ganglion cyst. This is achieved by using a splint or a brace that reduces the movement and friction of the hand. This leads to shrinking of the cyst that helps in relieving pressure on the nerves. However, overuse of the brace or splint is not recommended as it leads to weakening of the muscles of the limbs.
A ganglion cyst is a non-cancerous tumor or mass formation that fades away over time. However, these cysts may recur. A ganglion cyst can be effectively managed by use of medication and treatment therapies that helps in relieving pain and stress caused to the underlying tissues and nerves.