What Is a Ganglion Cyst?

14 August 2017

If a lump has appeared on the back of the hand or near the wrist, it is possible that a ganglion cyst has formed. The fluid-filled swelling typically appears near the joint or tendon beneath the skin, and can manifest at any time. They can range in size, and some people may experience no pain at all, while others may suffer from numbness, tingling, and even muscle weakness.

While little is known about ganglion cysts when compared to many other conditions affecting the wrist, here at Wrist Supports we have compiled a comprehensive guide covering what they are, who's at risk, and how we can help you treat ganglion cysts should they arise.

Please note that medical advice should be sought for diagnosis of any sudden lump or skin abnormality. 

What Is a Ganglion Cyst?

While there is a lot of debate about what exactly a ganglion cyst is and what causes it, it is generally believed to be caused by a breakdown of tissue on or near a joint. This causes small cysts to cluster together to create a larger, more prominent mass of synovial fluid.

Ganglion cysts are most common on the back of the hand or at the wrist joint, and they can occasionally appear on the palm side of the wrist. Each cyst tends to be under an inch in size, but the prominence of the ganglion cysts can alter.

Ganglion Cyst Diagram

What Are the Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts?

As the arrival of a ganglion cyst may not always be accompanied by any physical pain or discomfort, the easiest way to identify that one has occurred is by the appearance of a noticeable bump. This will tend to be located on the hand or near the wrist, and will typically be less than an inch in size.

The cyst may fluctuate also in size, ranging from the size of a pea to the height of a golf ball, and can also disappear entirely before resurfacing. The cyst should be soft, and will remain in the one fixed position, not migrating around the hand or wrist at all.

See Our Full Range of Ganglion Cysts

Do Ganglion Cysts Hurt?

One of the reasons ganglion cysts are considered difficult to medically define is because there is little consistency with the pain reportedly associated with them. For some people, the ganglion cyst may cause no pain at all, and the physical presence of the bump or lump on the hand or wrist is the only indicator.

However, some people do experience mild pain or discomfort. This can also be worsened by joint motion, making it essential to stabilise the wrist should this pain arise. Ganglion cysts are also more likely to hurt when they are connected to a tendon, thus causing weakness in the area of the limb.

A Ganglion Cyst On The Wrist
A ganglion cyst on the wrist

Who Is at Risk of Ganglion Cysts?

Anybody can develop a ganglion cyst at any time. Certain categories of people, however, such as women aged between 20 and 50, are at a higher risk than others when it comes to susceptibility.

Anybody with osteoarthritis in the finger joints closest to the fingernail is also more likely to develop a ganglion cyst, with the cyst often occurring nearer those joints. Joints or tendons with previous injuries are also at a higher risk of developing ganglion cysts.

Treating a Ganglion Cyst

Sometimes, if a ganglion cyst shows no signs of budging on its own, it may be necessary to take action to treat the area. The type of treatment will depend on the severity of the cyst, as well as on personal preferences, and the following three approaches are considered to be the most popular treatment options for removing ganglion cysts:

Needle Aspiration

Needle aspiration is a procedure that involves penetrating the ganglion cyst with a fine needle and then drawing out the fluid. This can remove the cyst in one session, or follow-up sessions may be required. In some cases, aspiration can completely remove the ganglion cyst and prevent it from returning.

Surgical Removal

More larger or more resilient ganglion cysts, removal by surgery may be required. This can include excision, and will require care following the removal to ensure that the treated area heals and that the cyst does not return.

Wrist Immobilisation

While needle aspiration and surgical removal are both invasive techniques, wearing a wrist support can provide a non-invasive and more versatile approach to treating a ganglion cyst. If this is the preferred method of controlling the cyst and reducing any pain or discomfort with which it is associated, a selection of wrist supports are available for wearing both instead of and following surgery of the hand and wrist.

How a Wrist Support Can Help You

There are also supports that offer stable immobilisation to prevent the wrist from moving around too much and risking increased damage. Such wrist supports as the Ossur Form Fit Wrist Brace with Thumb Spica offer this adjustable support to protect the ganglion cyst from coming into contact with anything, and are reliable for frequent wear without compromise to comfort.

By finding the correct wrist support for your condition, you can take back control of your hand and wrist health while effectively soothing pain and reducing discomfort on your way to recovery. Click the button below to view our full range of wrist supports for ganglion cysts.


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