The sudden appearance of a round or oval bump on the back of the hand or on the side of the wrist may be upsetting, if not downright alarming. Most likely, it’s a ganglion cyst.
That sounds scary, but don’t let the name frighten you. Ganglion cysts are a common condition that are neither harmful nor cancerous. However, they may cause some discomfort if they press on a nerve.
What Is a Ganglion Cyst?
Ganglion cysts occur when areas on the ligaments of the hand, or between the bones, become filled with a jelly-like fluid. The exact cause of this development is unknown; what is known is that the cyst grows out of a joint, or out of the lining of a tendon, when the tissue that surrounds the joint or tendon suddenly bulges out of place.
The thick fluid inside the cyst is similar to that found in joints or around tendons. Your risk of developing a ganglion cyst may be higher if:
- You’re a woman between the ages of 20 and 40.
- You have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis affecting your finger joints.
- Your joints or tendons in that area have been injured in the past.
Some ganglion cysts are so small that they’re barely noticeable, and they go away on their own. Others are pea-sized (which looks fairly large), and some can be up to an inch in diameter. However, the size can fluctuate, growing larger if you use the affected joint repeatedly and consistently.
What Should I Do About a Cyst on My Hand?
While hardly a medical emergency, hand cysts such as ganglion cysts should be evaluated by a physician – just in case. The doctor will then make a diagnosis and will determine whether treatment is necessary.
During the physical exam, your doctor may apply pressure to the cyst to assess its tenderness or discomfort, or the physician may shine a light through the cyst to determine whether it’s a solid mass or filled with fluid.
Imaging tests – such as X-rays, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – can help rule out other conditions as well. Aspiration, which is the process of using a needle and syringe to draw out fluid, may also confirm a ganglion cyst diagnosis.
How Are Ganglion Cysts Treated?
Also referred to as “Bible cysts” because they were treated in the past – believe it or not – with the whack of a large book such as the Bible, ganglion cysts are now treatable using several medical options.
If the cyst is causing pain or interfering with your joint movement, your doctor may recommend aspiration plus temporary immobilization of the affected area with a brace or splint.
If that approach doesn’t work, your doctor may recommend surgery. This entails removing the cyst and the stalk that attaches it to your joint or tendon. But even after these measures, there’s no guarantee that the cyst won’t recur.
Maryland Hand Surgeons
If you develop a ganglion cyst or other growth on your hand or wrist, our hand surgeons at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder can evaluate the growth and recommend how it should be handled. We’re conveniently located throughout Maryland.
Simply call our main office at (410) 296-6232 to arrange an appointment at one of our locations in the Greater Chesapeake area, or you can request an appointment online. We look forward to seeing you.