Ganglion cysts are non-cancerous lumps or masses that develop along the tendons or joints of the wrists and hands. They are filled with a thick and jelly-like fluid and can range in size from small pea-sized nodules to large, golf ball-sized growths. While ganglion cysts are usually harmless and can sometimes resolve on their own, they may cause pain or discomfort in some individuals, necessitating medical treatment.

At North Florida Hand and Wrist, our team of expert hand and wrist surgeons, led by Dr. Richard D. Curtis and Dr. Jose Baez, is dedicated to providing the utmost care for patients with ganglion cysts. Our state-of-the-art facility staffed with a team of dedicated practitioners works tirelessly to ensure that any hand or wrist discomfort stemming from these cysts is addressed effectively.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes and risk factors of ganglion cysts, examine the signs and symptoms, and delve into both non-surgical and surgical treatment options available at North Florida Hand and Wrist. By equipping our patients with thorough knowledge about ganglion cysts, they are empowered to make informed decisions about their hand and wrist health, leading to enhanced comfort and improved overall well-being.

Causes and Risk Factors of Ganglion Cysts

The exact cause of ganglion cysts remains unknown. However, it is believed that they may develop when the tissue surrounding a joint or tendon becomes damaged or inflamed, allowing the synovial fluid to leak and form a cyst. Certain factors can contribute to the development of ganglion cysts:

  1. Joint or tendon injury: A history of injury or trauma to the hand or wrist could result in cyst formation due to weakened or damaged joint or tendon tissues.
  2. Overuse: Participating in activities that involve repetitive motions of the hands and wrists, such as playing musical instruments, typing, or engaging in certain sports, can contribute to the development of ganglion cysts.
  3. Age and gender: While ganglion cysts can occur at any age, they are more common in individuals between the ages of 20 and 40. Women are also more likely to develop ganglion cysts.
  4. Osteoarthritis: Individuals with osteoarthritis, particularly in the finger joints, are at a higher risk of developing ganglion cysts.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts

Ganglion cysts can vary in appearance and symptoms, but some common signs and manifestations include:

  1. Visible lump: The most apparent symptom of a ganglion cyst is a noticeable lump, which may be soft or firm to the touch, located near a joint or tendon in the hand or wrist.
  2. Pain or discomfort: While some cysts may be painless, others can cause discomfort, especially when they press on nearby nerves.
  3. Joint stiffness: Ganglion cysts may lead to stiffness in the affected joint, making it difficult to move the finger or wrist.
  4. Fluctuating size: The size of a ganglion cyst may change over time, with periods of increased or decreased swelling depending on the level of activity or pressure on the affected joint.

Diagnosis of Ganglion Cysts

A thorough physical examination is essential to diagnose a ganglion cyst accurately. During the examination, your healthcare provider will assess the location, size, and consistency of the cyst. They may also apply gentle pressure to determine if the cyst is tender or causing discomfort. In some cases, imaging tests, such as x-rays, ultrasounds, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis or to rule out other potential conditions.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Ganglion Cysts

Before considering surgery, non-surgical treatments can be attempted to address the symptoms of ganglion cysts:

  1. Observation: As some ganglion cysts may resolve on their own over time, your healthcare provider may choose to monitor the cyst and recommend a wait-and-see approach if it is not causing significant pain or discomfort.
  2. Immobilization: Wearing a splint or brace to restrict wrist movement can help alleviate pressure on the cyst, reducing pain and allowing the fluid to be reabsorbed into the body.
  3. Oral medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help manage discomfort associated with ganglion cysts.
  4. Aspiration: This procedure involves using a sterile needle and syringe to drain the fluid from the cyst, potentially decreasing its size and alleviating pain. However, there is a chance that the cyst may recur after aspiration.

Surgical Treatment Options for Ganglion Cysts

If non-surgical treatments do not provide relief or if the cyst recurs, surgical intervention may be necessary. During the surgical procedure, called a ganglion cyst excision, the cyst is removed along with a small portion of the surrounding tissue. Depending on the size and location of the cyst, this procedure may be performed under local anesthesia or general anesthesia.

Recovery from ganglion cyst excision typically involves wearing a splint or cast for a few weeks, followed by physical therapy to restore range of motion and strengthen the affected area. Although the recurrence rate for ganglion cysts after surgery is relatively low, there is still a possibility that the cyst could return.


While ganglion cysts are generally harmless, they can sometimes cause discomfort or interfere with hand and wrist function. At North Florida Hand and Wrist, our experienced team of surgeons, led by Dr. Richard D. Curtis and Dr. Jose Baez, offers comprehensive care and a range of treatment options, including ganglion cyst hand surgery, to restore your hand and wrist health. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation and discuss the best course of action for addressing your ganglion cyst.