A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled sac. It is usually attached to the membrane that surrounds a tendon (tendon sheath) or a joint lining. Ganglion cysts usually appear on the back of the wrist. They may also be on the underside of the wrist, the hand, the fingers, or the feet. Ganglion cysts are not cancerous.
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The cause of ganglion cysts is not known.
Participating in sports that put a lot of repeated stress on wrists increases your chance of developing a ganglion cyst.
Symptoms can include:
- A soft bump, usually on the back of the wrist
- Pain or tenderness at the site of the bump, but they do not always result in pain
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Most ganglion cysts are easily diagnosed based on the location and appearance.
If the diagnosis is not clear, your doctor may perform imaging studies or perform a biopsy to help confirm the diagnosis.
Some ganglion cysts go away without treatment. If the cyst is very tender or unsightly, you may want treatment. Even with treatment, ganglion cysts often return.
Do not attempt to smash the cyst with a heavy object (a traditional home remedy). This is unlikely to get rid of the cyst. It is likely to injure you.
Because many ganglion cysts disappear on their own, watching it to make sure it is improving may be all that is needed.
You may need to wear a splint on your wrist. Ganglion cysts usually get smaller with less activity and larger with more activity.
A needle is put into the cyst to drain the fluid.
A steroid solution is injected into the cyst. This is usually done after the cyst is drained.
The cyst can be surgically removed. This is done when they are large and unsightly or painful. Cysts may return even after surgery.
There are no guidelines for preventing ganglion cysts.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Ganglia (ganglion cysts). The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook website. Available at:
. Updated March 2008. Accessed December 12, 2012.
Ganglion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
. Updated July 13, 2011. Accessed December 12, 2012.
Ganglion (cyst) of the wrist). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
. Updated October 2007. Accessed December 12, 2012.
Last Reviewed November 2012