HealthSheets™


Treating Ganglia

Back view of hand showing dotted line around ganglion cyst on wrist.

A ganglion is a swelling (cyst) that forms on joint and tendon sheaths. They are most often found in the wrist. But they can also show up on the foot, fingers, or toes. Ganglia are believed to be caused by a rupture of the tissue that lines the joints and tendon sheaths (synovial tissue). 

Ganglia are often difficult to treat without surgery—but nonsurgical methods may help relieve some of your symptoms.

Nonsurgical care

Nonsurgical methods include: 

  • Pads placed around the ganglion can ease pressure and friction.

  • Removing the fluid may also relieve symptoms, though ganglia may come back. The gelatinous gel is removed through a large-bore needle. You may get a steroid injection after the cyst fluid is removed.

  • Limiting movements or activities that increase pain may bring relief.

  • Icing the ganglion for 15 to 20 minutes may temporarily relieve inflammation and pain.

  • If your inflammation is severe, your healthcare provider may treat your symptoms with medicine.

Surgery

If a ganglion is causing ongoing or severe pain, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery. Your surgeon removes the entire ganglion wall during the procedure. He or she may also remove some surrounding tissue. If the ganglion has come through a tear in the capsule of the joint, the tear will have to be repaired. The joint will likely be get still while the tear heals.

After surgery

You may feel pain, swelling, numbness, or tingling for several weeks after surgery. Be sure to see your healthcare provider if you notice any problems in the future. Although surgery is usually successful, there is a chance that the ganglion will come back.

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