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What is a Ganglion Cyst and does it need Treatment?

A ganglion cyst is a small bump or mass that develops under the skin near a joint or tendon. Ganglion cysts are benign, fluid-filled bumps which commonly appear on the wrist (usually back side) and fingers. However, joints in the shoulder, elbow, knee, hip, ankle and foot can also develop a ganglion cyst. They range in size from the size of a pea to a golf ball and are usually harmless. Most are pain-free; however, if pain is noticed, it is most likely due to irritation of the joint or nerves surrounding the joint.

The cause of a ganglion cyst is not fully understood. Joint stress may play a part since the fluid found within the cyst is similar to the joint’s lubricating fluid (synovial fluid). Ganglion cysts pose no significant medical threat, but they may sometimes be unsightly and troubling. If that is the case, removal of the cyst may be suggested.

Diagnosing a ganglion cyst is performed by conducting a thorough evaluation of the site.  An ultrasound may be ordered to determine whether the mass is fluid-filled (cystic) or solid. The ultrasound will also display if an artery or blood vessel is causing the bump. If the physician is unable to confirm a diagnosis by ultrasound, fluid may be aspirated for further examination. An X-ray or MRI can also be used to rule out more severe conditions.

If the ganglion cyst does not pose discomfort, it may be left alone with hopes that it will disappear, as some do. If it is causing pain or is cosmetically an issue, aspirating it (draining the fluid) or surgically removing it are both options available at Hand to Shoulder Center of Wisconsin.

To learn more about ganglion cysts and the procedures performed by our physicians, go to

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