Ganglion Cysts

Ganglion cysts are lumps that occur within the hand and wrist or adjacent to the joints or tendons. Ganglion cysts are commonly located on the top of the wrist, the palm side of the wrist, the base of the finger on the palm side, and the top of the end joint of the finger. The ganglion cyst is very often similar to a water balloon on a stalk and contains clear fluid or gel.

The cause of ganglion cysts is still not known. They might occur in patients of all ages. These cysts may either disappear completely or change in size and may or may not be painful. Ganglion cysts are not cancerous and will not spread to other regions.


The diagnosis is mostly based on the appearance of the lump and the region where it is located. They are generally oval or round and could either be soft or very firm. Ganglion cysts that occur at the base of the finger on the palm side are usually very firm and are tender to applied pressure.

X rays can help the doctor identify if there are any problems in the adjacent joints. Ganglion cysts at the far joint of the finger often have an arthritic bone spur associated with them. The overlaying skin may be thin, and there could be a lengthwise groove in the fingernail, beyond the cyst.


Treatment can very often be non-surgical. In most cases, the ganglion cysts are painless and they might disappear spontaneously. However, if the cyst becomes painful or restricts activity, various treatment options are available. Splints and anti-inflammatory medication are prescribed in order to minimize the pain associated with activities. An aspiration could be performed in order to remove the fluid from the cyst and to decompress it.

In case, the non-surgical options fail to provide relief or if the ganglion cyst recurs, surgical treatment options are available. The surgery involves completely removing the cyst along with a portion of the joint capsule or tendon sheath. Both open and arthroscopic techniques generally yield good results. Surgical treatment is often successful although cysts have the tendency to recur.