Swelling that occurs around the hand and wrist can feel alarming and may even disrupt your daily life. What you may have going on is a ganglion cyst, a capsule of fluid that poses no serious risk for your health and will not spread. One of the biggest concerns about a ganglion cyst is that the capsule will grow larger over time. This type of growth may develop on the palm side of the wrist or on the back of the hand. In either situation, care may be needed to resolve the issue at hand – literally.
How a Ganglion Cyst Forms
A ganglion cyst develops when fluid synovial fluid leaks out from joint space or the sheath around the tendons in the wrist. If enough fluid seeps from these areas, a sac-like envelope may form. This is what we call a ganglion cyst. When the cyst is touched, it may feel soft and gel-like. It is possible that the cyst may be tender to the touch, but appearance is typically the most significant concern.
Identifying and Treating the Ganglion Cyst
There are other types of growths that may form on the hand and wrist. A formal examination is the best way to accurately identify the nature of any cyst-type growth. However, before you see the doctor, you may observe the cyst’s “movability.” A ganglion cyst will not adhere to the skin, it may move somewhat freely. The skin that lies over the cysts should also be normal color. If you hold a small light against the cyst, you may be able to see right through it, confirming that it is not a solid mass.
A ganglion cyst may go away spontaneously without medical treatment. Because there is no risk of this type of cyst spreading, you may monitor it and forego treatment to see if the cyst goes away. If a cyst grows larger or presents a cosmetic or functional concern, an orthopedic physician can remove the growth.
There are two ways in which a doctor may treat a ganglion cyst: one is to aspirate it and one is to excise the growth. Aspiration is a non-surgical technique performed under local anesthetic, an injected numbing medication. The procedure, in which a needle is inserted into the cyst to aspirate, or extract, the fluid, takes only a few minutes. The downside to this technique is that the cyst may grow back. Surgical excision of a ganglion cyst may also be performed with a local anesthetic. This technique involves a small incision in the skin and removal of the cyst and its surrounding sac, which decreases the risk of recurrence.
Learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of ganglion cysts. Schedule a visit to one of our New Jersey offices at (973) 942-1315.