GANGLION CYSTS (FOOT)
If you suffer from ganglion cysts, please feel free to Schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists.
What is a ganglion cyst?
The word “ganglion” means knot and is used to describe the knot-like mass or lump that forms below the surface of the skin. Ganglion cysts are a benign, non-cancerous entity. Although they are benign, they can interfere with joint motion and can cause discomfort, especially in footwear. Ganglion cysts can develop around or near any joint in the body as they are extensions of the joint capsule that has ballooned outside of the joint and is filled with joint fluid. These cysts are commonly found in the wrist or on the top or outer foot. Smaller cysts, called mucous cysts, can commonly be found in the tendon sheaths of the extensor tendons.
What causes ganglion cysts?
We do not know what exactly causes ganglion cysts to form. Although the exact cause of ganglion cysts is unknown, they may arise from trauma—whether a single event or repetitive microtrauma.
What are the symptoms of a ganglion cyst?
A ganglion cyst is associated with one or more of the following symptoms:
- A noticeable lump—often this is the only symptom experienced
- Tingling or burning, if the cyst is touching a nerve
- Dull pain or ache, which may indicate the cyst is pressing against a tendon or joint
- Difficulty wearing shoes due to irritation between the lump and the shoe
Diagnosis and Treatment
The diagnosis of ganglion cysts is performed via clinical examination. At times X rays are taken to evaluate surrounding joints for arthritis. An MRI or US may be performed to confirm the fluid-filled ganglion cyst if there is suspicion for the possibility of a different mass. MRI can also be helpful in diagnosis of a hidden, or occult, ganglion.
There are various options for treating a ganglion cyst on the foot:
- Monitoring but no treatment. If the cyst causes no pain and does not interfere with walking, the surgeon may decide it is best to carefully watch the cyst over a period of time.
- Shoe modifications. Wearing shoes that do not rub the cyst or cause irritation may be advised. In addition, placing a pad inside the shoe may help reduce pressure against the cyst.
- Aspiration and injection. This technique involves draining the fluid and then injecting a steroid medication into the mass. More than one session may be needed. Although this approach is successful in some cases, in many others, the cyst returns.
The most definitive treatment for ganglion cysts is surgical excision. Even when excised, ganglion cysts may recur. Typically ganglion cyst excision involves 2-3 week recovery and is performed in an outpatient surgical setting. Your foot and ankle surgeon will discuss expectations for recovery.