What Is a Ganglion Cyst?
A ganglion cyst is a tumor or swelling (benign not cancerous) usually on top of a joint or the covering of a tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone). It looks like a sack of liquid (cyst) located just under the skin. Inside of the cyst is a thick, sticky, clear, colorless, jellylike material. Depending on the size, cyst may feel firm or spongy.
Signs and Symptoms
A ganglion cyst is associated with one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- A noticeable lump- often this is the only symptoms experienced
- Tingling or burning, if the cyst is touching a nerve
- Dull pin or ache, which may indicate the cyst is pressing against a tendon or joint
- Difficulty wearing shoes due to irritation between the lump and the shoe
What Causes a Ganglion Cyst?
Ganglion cyst are usually caused by some type of injury. For example, a ganglion cyst might develop after something drops on the foot, if the foot was twisted while walking, or after too much stress was places on a joint or tendon. For some patients, the trauma that triggers this condition is something they do not recall. Usually the cyst appears soon after the trauma occurs.
During the physical exam, your doctor may apply pressure to the cyst to test for tenderness or discomfort. He or she may try to shine a light through the cyst to determine if it’s a solid mass of filled with fluid. Occasionally other imaging studies may be used.
There are various options to treating a ganglion cyst on the foot:
- Monitoring, but no treatment. If the cyst causes no pain and does not interfere with walking, the surgeon may decide it is best to carefully watch the cyst over a period of time.
- Shoe modifications. Wearing shoes that do not rub the cyst or cause irritation may be advised. In addition, placing a pad inside the shoe may help reduce pressure against the cyst.
- Aspiration and injection. This technique involves draining the fluid and then injecting a steroid medication into the mass. More than one session may be needed. Although this approach is successful in some cases, in many others the cyst returns.
- Surgery. When other treatment options fail or are not appropriate, the cyst may need to be surgically removed. While the recurrence rate associated with surgery is much lower than that experienced with aspiration and injection therapy, there are nevertheless cases in which the ganglion cyst returns.