Ganglion cysts are balloon-like expansions that arise from a joint or a tendon sheath . They can be found at different locations on the wrist or the hand. They are usually harmless and may change in size or even disappear in time. Sometimes they are a sign of underlying arthritis. Some ganglion cysts may be painful and large ones maybe obvious and unattractive.
By definition, a ganglion cyst contains a thick, mucus-like gel. An X-rays does not show a cyst but can show underlying arthritis. When in doubt, I may perform an ultrasound or order an MRI to confirm that the lump at hand is truly a ganglion cyst and not a growth or a vascular anomaly.
Treatment usually starts with observation especially if it is small and painless. When somethings needs to be done, options include splinting and needle aspiration. Aspiration means sucking out the content of the cyst. Aspiration only empty the content of the cyst, which means that the outer layer is let behind and may refill later on. Alternatively, the cyst can be removed surgically.
Nonsurgical treatment leaves the outer shell and the stalk of the ganglion intact, so it may reform and reappear. There are instances where the cyst reforms after it has been surgically removed. In case there is an obvious reason for the cyst to form such as underlying arthritis or tendinitis, it may be wise to address that problem at the same time.