Ganglion cysts are very common masses (lumps) that sometimes grow in the hand and wrist. The cysts are generally found on the top or the palm side of the wrist, the end joint of a finger (mucous cysts) or at the base of a finger. Ganglion cysts often have a specific cause and usually come from nearby joints or tendon sheaths.
These cysts can be painful, especially when they first appear or with constant or strenuous use of the hand. Ganglion cysts often change in size and may disappear completely. They are not malignant (cancerous).
The diagnosis of a ganglion cyst is usually based on where the cyst is and what it looks like. Your hand surgeon may recommend X-rays to rule out problems in nearby joints.
Treatment of ganglion cysts may be simply watching for any changes. However, if the cyst is painful, limits activity or has an unacceptable appearance to the patient, other treatment may be recommended.
Nonsurgical treatments may include removing fluid from the cyst with a needle or the wearing of a splint to keep the hand or wrist from moving. If these treatments fail, surgery to remove the cyst may be recommended.
The goal of surgery is to remove the source of the cyst, which may require removal of a portion of the joint capsule or tendon sheath next to the ganglion. If the ganglion is removed from the wrist, a splint may be recommended following surgery. Some patients may feel tenderness, discomfort and swelling at the site of surgery, but full activity can be resumed once comfort permits. While surgery offers the best success in removing ganglions, these cysts may return.