Ganglion Cyst: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Ganglion cyst is one of the most common soft tissues swelling of the wrist and hand. Although ganglion cysts are non-cancerous, they may lead to pain, loss of function and weakness, requiring treatment.

Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled swellings overlying a tendon sheath or joint. Ganglion cysts are believed to be the result of a herniation of dense connective tissue from ligaments, tendon sheaths, joint capsules, menisci, and bursae.

Most ganglion cysts are found on the dorsal aspect of the wrist. These cysts vary in size and can range from the size of a pea to a golf ball.

Ganglion cysts are three times more prevalent in women aged 20 to 40 compared to men

What are the symptoms of a ganglion cyst?

The primary symptom of a ganglion cyst is the visible appearance of a lump or swelling along the tendons or joints of wrists or hands with joint pain.

Typically, the cyst is firm, rounded, smooth and occasionally painful. The size of the cyst may change over time. Sometimes, the cyst can impinge the nerve, resulting in sensory and nerve impairment.

How is a ganglion cyst diagnosed?

Your doctor would first question your general health and symptoms before conducting a thorough physical examination. Diagnosis is made based on your reported symptoms, physical examination, and investigations.

In patients with a palpable swelling, the transillumination test offers a simple in-office way to differentiate ganglion cysts from solid tumours: ganglion cysts transilluminate, whereas solid tumours do not.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) would be able to differentiate most ganglion cysts from other types of masses in patients with unexplained wrist pain.

How is a ganglion cyst treated?

Generally, treatment is only advised if the cyst causes pain or limits the range of motion in a joint.

  1. Observation

    Patients who do not seek intervention or are asymptomatic should be reassured and observed. More than 50% of individuals may experience spontaneous resolution of ganglion cysts without intervention.

    A brace can also be used on a temporary basis, but its usage should be limited to prevent muscle atrophy that can result from long-term immobilisation.

  2. Cyst aspiration

    In the aspiration procedure, the doctor will remove the fluid from the cyst using a needle. However, more than 50% of ganglion cysts treated by aspiration will recur within one year.

  3. Surgery

    Surgery is recommended for patients with persisting or recurring symptoms despite other treatments. It involves either an open or arthroscopic excision of the cyst and its stalk. Surgical removal of a ganglion is usually effective, but if the cyst is not completely excised, it may recur.

Book an appointment at Pantai Hospitals

Early detection of ganglion cysts makes it easier to treat the condition with effective and appropriate treatment. A dedicated and expert team of Orthopaedic specialists at Pantai Hospital is available for consultation to provide the best care and assistance.

Get in touch with us to book an appointment today if you have concerns or questions regarding rotator cuff injury. We assure you the best possible care tailored to your specific needs.

Pantai Hospital has been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.

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