Ganglions are small sacs
(cysts) filled with fluid that often
appear as bumps on the hands and wrists. They can also develop on feet, ankles,
knees, or shoulders. A ganglion can grow out of a
joint capsule, which surrounds the joint,
or a tendon sheath, which covers the
tendon (the fibers connecting muscle to
bone). Ganglions aren't cancerous.
Most people with ganglions notice that the bumps appear suddenly. Bumps may be very small or bigger than a cherry. Ganglions may
get bigger as activity increases and more fluid collects in the sac. They may
also shrink and may break and go away on their own.
Anyone can get a ganglion: adults between 15
and 40 years old are most likely to be affected.1
Children don't usually have ganglions, but if they do, the ganglion will very
likely go away without any treatment.
Experts don't know the
exact cause of ganglions. They may be linked to:
Ganglions are usually
small, painless bumps and do not cause other symptoms.
Sometimes the bump can be tender to the touch, or there can be pain that gets worse with activity or pressure.
If the ganglion puts pressure on nearby nerves, you may have tingling in your fingers,
hand, or forearm. Some ganglions can weaken your grip or affect joint
A ganglion can
usually be diagnosed based on how it looks and where it is. Your doctor will also feel
the bump and shine a light alongside it. If the bump is a ganglion, the light
usually shines through it.
You may need an
X-ray if your doctor suspects
arthritis or injury.
Some of the fluid found in the ganglion may be removed and examined. In rare
cases, an MRI or
ultrasound may be done.
Ganglions usually don't
need treatment, and they often go away on their own. But treatment may be needed if the ganglion causes pain or other symptoms, limits what you can do, affects your bones or ligaments, or gets infected. You may also want treatment if you're bothered by how the bump looks.
Your doctor may treat a ganglion by:
With or without treatment, ganglions may come and go and may get bigger or smaller.
Learning about ganglions:
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
provides information and education to raise the public's awareness of
musculoskeletal conditions, with an emphasis on preventive measures. The AAOS
website contains information on orthopedic conditions and treatments, injury
prevention, and wellness and exercise.
ASSH is a professional organization of hand surgeons
that provides education to the public about hand problems, such as Dupuytren's
disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tennis elbow. ASSH also provides education
about surgery, preventive tips to keep your hands safe, and an online tool to
find a hand surgeon.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Ganglion of the wrist and hand. In JF Sarwark, ed., Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed., pp. 488–492. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Other Works Consulted
Bednar MS, Light TR (2006). Hand surgery. In HB Skinner, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 4th ed., pp. 535–596. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Hasham S, Burke FD (2007). Diagnosis and treatment of swellings in the hand. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 83(979): 296–300.
August 27, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& Herbert von Schroeder, MD, MSc, FRCSC - Hand and Microvascular Surgery
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