Ganglion (Cyst) of the Wrist
Your hands and wrists are essential tools that allow you to work, play and perform everyday activities. How well the hand and wrist interact depends on the integrity and function of the ligaments, tendons, muscles, joints and bones.
Problems in any of these can affect upper extremity function, causing disruptions at home and work and negatively impacting quality of life.
The human hand itself is very complex and delicate in structure. At some time in life, you may experience hand or wrist pain.
Ganglion cysts are the most common mass or lump in the hand. They are not cancerous and, in most cases, are harmless. They occur in various locations, but most frequently develop on the back of the wrist.
These fluid-filled cysts can quickly appear, disappear, and change size. Many ganglion cysts do not require treatment. However, if the cyst is painful, interferes with function, or has an unacceptable appearance, there are several treatment options available.
Cause & Symptoms
It is not known what triggers the formation of a ganglion. They are most common in younger people between the ages of 15 and 40 years, and women are more likely to be affected than men. These cysts are also common among gymnasts, who repeatedly apply stress to the wrist.
Ganglion cysts that develop at the end joint of a finger — also known as mucous cysts — are typically associated with arthritis in the finger joint, and are more common in women between the ages of 40 and 70 years.
Most ganglions form a visible lump, however, smaller ganglions can remain hidden under the skin (occult ganglions). Although many ganglions produce no other symptoms, if a cyst puts pressure on the nerves that pass through the joint, it can cause pain, tingling, and muscle weakness.
Large cysts, even if they are not painful, can cause concerns about appearance.
Medical History and Physical Examination
During the initial appointment, your doctor will discuss your medical history and symptoms. He or she may ask you how long you have had the ganglion, whether it changes in size, and whether it is painful.
Pressure may be applied to identify any tenderness. Because a ganglion is filled with fluid, it is translucent. Your doctor may shine a penlight up to the cyst to see whether light shines through.
These tests create clear pictures of dense structures, like bone. Although x-rays will not show a ganglion cyst, they can be used to rule out other conditions, such as arthritis or a bone tumor.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or ultrasounds
These imaging tests can better show soft tissues like a ganglion. Sometimes, an MRI or ultrasound is needed to find an occult ganglion that is not visible, or to distinguish the cyst from other tumors.
Great Lakes Physical Therapy
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