Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
A ganglion cyst is a tumor or swelling on top of a joint
or the covering of a tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone). It looks like a sac of liquid (cyst). Inside the cyst is a thick, sticky, clear, colorless, jellylike material. Depending on the size, cysts may feel firm or spongy.
One large cyst or many smaller ones may develop. Multiple small cysts can give the appearance of more than one cyst, but a common stalk within the deeper tissue usually connects them. This type of cyst is not harmful and accounts for about half of all soft tissue tumors of the hand.
Ganglion cysts, also known as Bible cysts, are more common in women, and 70% occur in people between 20-40
years of age. Rarely, ganglion cysts can occur in children younger than 10 years
Ganglion cysts most commonly occur on the back of the hand (60%-70%), at the wrist joint, and can also develop on the palm side of the wrist. When found on the back of the wrist, they become more prominent when the wrist is flexed forward. Other sites, although less common, include these:
The base of the fingers on the palm, where they appear as small pea-sized bumps
The fingertip, just below the cuticle, where they are called mucous cysts
After a ganglion has been diagnosed, home treatment includes:
Wearing a wrist or finger splint off and on for several weeks. This limits movement of the wrist or hand, which helps reduce the fluid that collects within the ganglion sac. This may be all that is needed for the ganglion to shrink and disappear on its own. Do not put the splint on too tight because it can affect the blood supply to the wrist and hand. Signs that the splint is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, or coolness in the hand. Constantly wearing a splint for more than a few days may also cause muscle wasting, known as atrophy.
Massaging the ganglion. Rubbing the ganglion gently but often may help move the fluid out of the sac. Do not smash a ganglion with a book or other heavy object. You may break a bone or otherwise injure your wrist by trying this folk remedy, and the ganglion may return anyway.