Ganglion Cysts

Ganglion cysts are non-cancerous, fluid-filled lumps commonly developing on the hand and wrist, specifically around the joints and tendons. Although ganglion cysts can form on any joint in the body, they are most frequently found on the back of the wrist, the base of the fingers, or the palm. The size and shape of these cysts can vary, and they may present as a small, pea-sized bump or a larger, more noticeable protrusion. While the exact cause of ganglion cysts remains elusive, they are generally harmless and painless unless they compress a surrounding nerve or interfere with joint and tendon function.

At North Florida Hand and Wrist, our highly skilled hand and wrist surgeons, Dr. Richard D. Curtis and Dr. Jose Baez diagnose and treat ganglion cysts using the most advanced and minimally invasive techniques. Our state-of-the-art facility, backed by a team of dedicated practitioners, is designed to provide the highest standard of care to patients seeking relief from hand or wrist discomfort.

In this informative article, we will explore the potential causes and common symptoms of ganglion cysts and the various diagnostic methods and treatment options available at North Florida Hand and Wrist. By understanding ganglion cysts and the available treatments, patients can make informed decisions about their hand and wrist health to achieve the best outcomes and enjoy an enhanced quality of life.

Possible Causes and Risk Factors of Ganglion Cysts

Although the exact cause of ganglion cysts remains unknown, certain factors are thought to contribute to their formation. These potential causes and risk factors include:

  1. Trauma or injury: Damage to the joint or tendon, such as a sprain or strain, can irritate the underlying synovial tissue and develop a ganglion cyst.
  2. Overuse: Repetitive motions or excessive joint use can cause stress and inflammation, which may prompt cyst formation.
  3. Age and gender: Ganglion cysts are more common in women and individuals between 20 and 40.
  4. Osteoarthritis: People with osteoarthritis, particularly in the finger joints, are at a higher risk of developing ganglion cysts due to joint degeneration.

Recognizing Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts

The symptoms of a ganglion cyst can vary, often depending on its size and location. Common symptoms include:

  1. Visible lump or mass: A rounded, soft, and rubbery mass clearly visible on the hand or wrist is the most common symptom of a ganglion cyst.
  2. Pain: Although many ganglion cysts are painless, some can cause discomfort, especially when they compress a nerve or interfere with joint movement.
  3. Tenderness and swelling: The area around a ganglion cyst may be tender or swollen, particularly when pressure is applied or the joint is moved.
  4. Reduced range of motion: A ganglion cyst can sometimes limit joint movement, making it difficult to flex or extend the fingers or wrist.

Ganglion Cyst Diagnosis Process

To accurately diagnose a ganglion cyst and determine the best course of treatment, our physicians at North Florida Hand and Wrist will:

  1. Perform a physical examination: During the examination, the doctor will assess the size, shape, and location of the lump and check for tenderness, swelling, and range of motion.
  2. Review medical history: Our practitioners must thoroughly understand any relevant medical history and potential contributing factors to make a well-informed diagnosis.
  3. Utilize imaging tests: In some cases, additional tests, such as x-rays, ultrasounds, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be necessary to rule out other conditions and confirm the presence of a ganglion cyst.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Ganglion Cysts

Often, ganglion cysts can be monitored and managed through non-surgical means. Some conservative treatment options include:

  1. Observation: If the ganglion cyst is painless and not causing functional limitations, the doctor may recommend monitoring the cyst for any changes or growth, as they can sometimes disappear spontaneously.
  2. Immobilization: Wearing a splint or brace to limit wrist movement may help reduce pressure on the affected joint and alleviate pain.
  3. Pain relief medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help alleviate discomfort associated with a ganglion cyst.
  4. Aspiration: Our physicians may sometimes recommend draining the fluid from the cyst using a needle and syringe (aspiration). This procedure can provide temporary relief, although the cyst may recur.

Surgical Treatment Options for Ganglion Cysts

Surgical intervention may be necessary if non-surgical treatments are unsuccessful or if the cyst causes severe pain and interferes with daily activities. The primary surgical treatment for ganglion cysts is:

  1. Ganglion cyst excision: This procedure involves the removal of the entire cyst, including the part connected to the joint or tendon. It can be performed under local or general anesthesia as an outpatient procedure. Although surgical excision reduces the chances of recurrence, there is still a small chance the cyst may reappear.

Following a cyst excision, patients may work with a hand therapist or participate in occupational therapy to regain range of motion and strength in the affected area.


Though often harmless, ganglion cysts can cause discomfort or limitations in joint function if left untreated. Understanding the different aspects of this condition, including symptoms, possible causes, and available treatment options, empowers individuals to make well-informed decisions to maintain their hand and wrist health. 

At North Florida Hand and Wrist, our experienced team of hand and wrist surgeons, led by Dr. Richard D. Curtis and Dr. Jose Baez, is committed to providing a personalized approach to patient care for individuals dealing with ganglion cysts or other hand and wrist issues. Choosing our expert team guarantees state-of-the-art care and guidance along your journey through ganglion cyst removal, recovery, and restored functionality.