Ganglion cysts – symptoms, causes and risk factors

ganglion cysts causes

Ganglion cysts are noncancerous lumps which are most commonly developing along the tendons or joints of your hands or wrists. They can also happen in our feet and ankles. These cysts are typically oval or round and they are filled with jellylike fluid. These small cysts can be pea – sized while the larger ganglion cysts can be around an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. If these cysts press a nearby nerve, they can be painful. In some cases their location can interfere with the joint movement. If this cyst is causing you problems, then your doctor can suggest draining the cyst using a needle. Also you have an option to make a surgery for removing the ganglion cyst. But if you do not have any symptoms, then you will probably not have a need for treatment. In many cases the ganglion cyst will go on its own. Ganglion cysts are also known as Bible cysts. It is known fact that they are more common in women and 70% of the ganglion cysts are happening in people who are between ages of 20 and 40. There are very rare cases when ganglion cysts can happen in children who are younger than 10 years. [1] Also it is known that they are happening most commonly on the back of the hand at the wrist joints but also they can develop on the palm side of the wrist. When ganglion cysts are found on the back of your wrists, they become more prominent when the wrist is flexed forward. Also they can be found at the top of the foot and the outside of knee and ankle. Also they can be located at the fingertip, just below the cuticle and if they are here, then they are known as mucous cysts. They can be located at the base of the fingertips on the palm, where they appear as small pea – sized bumps. Ganglion cysts are usually soft, anywhere from 1 – 3 centimeters in diameter and they do not move. When the ganglion cyst is connected to a tendon, then you can feel a sense of weakness in the affected finger.

Symptoms of ganglion cysts

The lumps which are associated with the ganglion cyst can be characterized by:

  • Pain: In the most cases ganglion cysts are painless. But if the ganglion cyst presses on a nerve, even if the cyst is too small form a noticeable lump, it can cause tingling, pain, muscle weakness and numbness.
  • Location: This type of cyst most commonly develop along the tendons or joints of your hands or wrists. Also feet and ankles are very common location for ganglion cysts. Also these cyts can happen near other joints.
  • Shape and size: This type of cyst is oval or round. Usually, ganglion cysts are less than 2.5 cm (an inch) in diameter. There are some cases when they are so small and they cannot be felt. But the size of ganglion cyst can fluctuate and this is happening when you are using the joint for repetitive motions.

You should see your doctor if you experience a noticeable lump or pain in your foot, ankle, hand or wrist. Your doctor will make diagnose and it will determine if you need treatment so you will not be worried about it. These cysts do not need emergency treatment unless you have significant trauma.

ganglion cysts causesCauses for ganglion cysts

The exact cause for the development of ganglion cysts is not known. Ganglion cyst grows out of a joint or the lining of a tendon and it looks like a tiny water balloon on a stalk and it seems to happen when the tissue which surrounds a joint or a tendon bulges out of a place. Inside the ganglion cyst there is a thick lubricating fluid which is similar to that found in joints or around tendons.

Risk factors: Here are some factors that can increase your risk of ganglion cysts:

  • Join or tendon injury: If you have injured your joints or tendons in the past, then they are having an increased risk of developing ganglion cysts. [2]
  • Your sex and age: This type of cyst can develop in every single person but most commonly they are happening in women between the ages of 20 and 40. [3,4]
  • Osteoarthritis: It is known fact that people who wear – and – tear arthritis in the finger joints that are closest to their fingernails are having increased risk of ganglion cysts near those joints. [5]


[1] Cypel TKS, Mrad A, Somers GR, Zuker RM. Ganglion cyst in children: Reviewing treatment and recurrence rates. The Canadian Journal of Plastic Surgery. 2011;19(2):53-5.

[2] Suen M, Fung B, Lung CP. Treatment of ganglion cysts. ISRN Orthopedics. 2013;2013:940615.

[3] Zhang A, Falkowski AL, Jacobson JA, et al. Sonography of wrist ganglion cysts: Which location is most common? Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. 2018;38(3):2155-60.

[4] Wang G, Jacobson JA, Feng FY, et al. Sonography of wrist ganglion cysts: Variable and noncystic appearances. Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. 2007;26(10):1323-8.

[5] University of Cambridge. Joint lubricating fluid plays key role in osteoarthritic pain, study finds. Science Daily. 2019.


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