Diagnosis and Treatment of Ganglion Cysts of the Wrist in Wake County

What are Ganglion Cysts of the Wrist?

Ganglion cysts are noncancerous lumps that develop along the tendons or joints of your wrists or hands. The most common location of a ganglion cyst is on the back of the wrist. A ganglion cyst grows out of the tissues surrounding a joint, including ligaments, tendon sheaths, and joint linings. In most cases, these fluid-filled cysts are harmless and can quickly appear, disappear, and change size. They are typically round or oval, containing a jellylike substance. Small ganglion cysts can be pea-sized, while larger ones can be around an inch in diameter. Their location can sometimes interfere with joint movement or cause pain if they press on a nearby nerve. With rest, the cysts become smaller and eventually go away on their own.

Causes and Risk Factors of Ganglion Cysts

It is unknown what exactly causes a ganglion cyst to develop. They seem to occur when the tissue surrounding a joint or tendon bulges out of place. Factors that may increase your risk of developing a ganglion cyst include: 

  • Your age and sex:: Anyone can develop ganglion cysts, but they mostly affect women between the ages of 15 and 40 years
  • Joint or tendon injury:: Joints and tendons that have been injured in the past are more likely to develop ganglion cysts
  • Certain sports:: Athletes who put an excessive amount of force on their wrists, such as gymnasts, may experience ganglion cysts
  • Osteoarthritis:: People who have wear-and-tear arthritis in the finger joints, typically women ages 40 to 70, are at higher risk for ganglion cysts; also known as mucous cysts

Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts

Most ganglion cysts form a visible lump. If they’re small enough, they can remain hidden under the skin. Many ganglion cysts produce no other symptoms, however, if a cyst puts pressure on the nerve that passes through the joint, you may experience the following sensations, which should prompt you to visit an orthopedic specialist:

  • Mild pain
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Muscle weakness

How are Ganglion Cysts Diagnosed?

During your initial visit, your doctor at Raleigh Orthopaedic will discuss your medical history and symptoms. Then they will perform a physical exam, applying pressure to identify any tenderness in the wrist. They may also shine a light through the cyst to determine if it’s a solid mass or filled with fluid. Your doctor might also order one or more imaging tests, including an X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI to rule out any other conditions, such as arthritis or a tumor. Ultrasounds and MRIs are effective in locating hidden (occult) cysts.

Treatment for Ganglion Cysts at Raleigh Orthopaedic

Nonsurgical Treatment

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For the most part, ganglion cysts are harmless and require no treatment. Your doctor may suggest a watch-and-wait approach before considering other treatment methods. If the cyst is disrupting joint mobility, there are two nonsurgical treatment methods available. Immobilization involves stabilizing the area with a brace or splint for a period of time. This will relieve pressure on your nerves and reduce pain or inflammation. As pain decreases, your doctor may prescribe exercises to strengthen the wrist and restore full range of motion. A second method, aspiration, involves numbing the affected area and puncturing the cyst with a needle so fluid can be withdrawn. Aspiration is frequently used in cases where the cyst sits on the top of the wrist.

Surgical Treatment Options

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If nonsurgical treatment does not relieve your symptoms, surgery may be necessary. The surgical procedure to remove a ganglion cyst is called an excision. During surgery, the cyst is removed as well as part of the involved joint capsule or tendon sheath. Excision is typically performed as an outpatient procedure and patients are able to go home after a period of observation. There will be some discomfort, swelling, and tenderness following surgery. Normal activities may be resumed after approximately 2 to 6 weeks.

Recovery from Ganglion Cyst Surgery

It is recommended to avoid activities that involve repeated arm and hand movement for one to two weeks after surgery. Some normal activities that may have to be avoided include typing, vacuuming, using power tools, or carrying things using the affected hand. It is also important to avoid any activities that can cause vibrations in your hand. Depending on your line of work, you may be able to return to work one to two days after surgery.

How Can I Prevent a Ganglion Cyst in My Wrist?

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent a ganglion cyst in the wrist, as doctors do not know exactly what causes them. There are a number of risk factors, however, that could increase your chances of getting ganglion cysts that should be monitored. Women between the ages of 20 to 40 are most at risk of getting ganglion cysts. If you have osteoarthritis or any other degenerative joint condition, you may be more prone to getting cysts. If you have injured wrist joints or tendons in the past, you may have weakened connective tissue, which can also lead to cyst development. We recommend that those who are at a higher risk for ganglion cysts regularly monitor their hand and wrist health and seek care from an orthopedic specialist if they are experiencing painful or uncomfortable symptoms.

Treatment for Ganglion Cysts in the Triangle Area at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic

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Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic provides a wide range of nonsurgical and surgical treatments for hand and wrist conditions, including ganglion cysts. Our orthopedic specialists proudly serve patients of all ages with high-quality services in order to achieve the best functional outcome. We will work directly with you to determine the cause of your symptoms and develop a personalized care plan suited to your individual needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at one of our state-of-the-art orthopedic clinics in Wake County.