A ganglion cyst is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor that forms on top of a joint, usually in the hands, wrists, or base of fingers. Filled with a clear fluid, these cysts are frequently associated with the irritation of tendons or joints and may be affected by structural issues with joints. They do not usually cause pain and often go away without significant treatment.
Possibly caused by a defect that allows tissue to press through joints or tendons, ganglion cysts can appear alone or in connected clusters as pea-sized bumps. Ganglion cysts appear around joints and usually become more noticeable when a joint is flexed.
Other than hands and wrists, ganglion cysts may appear on:
Scientists and doctors do not know exactly what causes ganglion cysts to occur, however, there are certain risk factors that may lead to an increased chance of developing ganglion cysts. Ganglion cysts most commonly develop in women between the ages of 20 and 40. Ganglion cysts are more likely to occur when the joint or tendon on which it develops has been injured or has undergone significant trauma, even if it did not result in injury. Finally, the presence of osteoarthritis seems to play a part in causing ganglion cysts, as they are more likely to occur in people that have osteoarthritis in the finger joints at closes to the fingertips. These cysts are also common in people who practice gymnastics or perform other activities where the wrists and hands are under constant tension. Likely, some combination of use and age is involved in the causation of ganglion cysts and especially use in the case of overuse or trauma to the hand or finger joints.
A visual inspection of the cyst is the first step in the diagnosis process. X-rays may be taken to determine if there are related joint issues. Some deeper cysts can be accompanied by bone spurs.
The cyst may be surgically removed if non-surgical treatments aren’t providing relief. Surgery involves removal of a thin covering on a tendon or the joint capsule on an affected joint.
Sometimes referred to as “Bible cysts,” ganglion cysts can affect anyone, although statistically they occur more frequently in women and adults 20-40 years of age. While soft tissue tumors like ganglion cysts are harmless and often painless, it’s best to have any usual lumps or bumps checked by a doctor to confirm it’s not a growth that may be more serious.
Because doctors and scientists do not know exactly what causes ganglion cysts, it is impossible to avoid them entirely. Common risk factors such as age and gender cannot be altered to lower one’s chance of developing a ganglion cyst. However, avoiding activities that create extreme stress in the wrists and fingers may aid in preventing ganglion cysts, as they are more common in people who either have osteoarthritis or perform activities which cause significant stress to wrist and finger joints. Remaining vigilant for the presence of ganglion cysts, especially in people at higher risk of developing them, can lead to earlier detection. Apart from this, the only somewhat clear method of avoiding ganglion cysts is to avoid the trauma that appears to be correlated with their chance of occurring.