If you notice a fluid-filled sac or lump developing at the front or back of your wrist, it is probably a ganglion cyst. Before you panic, you should know that these lumps are not cancerous. They do not spread, and there are ways you can treat them. 

How to Know if It is a Ganglion Cyst: What Is It?

The cyst on your wrist is actually a sac of tissue attached to the tendon or joint. If you touch this lump, you might feel a liquid inside it. Such lumps contain a fluid similar to what you would find between the joints and tendon sheets. Here is how you can recognize if you have one:

  • Size: Ganglion cysts range from small to large. The small ones would be smaller than peas, while the biggest could go up to the size of a plum. They usually get bigger if the area is involved in repetitive movements or strains in the affected area.
  • Shape: Shape also varies from round to oval.
  • Location: Though they are commonly found on the wrist, you might also find ganglion cysts in different body locations, such as the foot, ankle, and other parts near the joints. 
  • Comfort Level: In general, these cysts should not give you much pain, but they may cause other discomforts, such as diminished range of motion, numbness, and a tingling sensation. However, if you feel any pain, consider seeking the necessary medical treatment.
  • Age: People at any age can have ganglion cysts, but they are prevalent in people between the age of 15 to 40. 

Why They Occur and How they are Diagnosed

Up to now, there is still no study confirming what causes ganglion cysts. To know if the lump on your body is indeed a ganglion cyst, the doctors need to conduct an assessment. They diagnose ganglion cysts based on their location, feel, and look. 

Doctors usually use two processes to determine it. One is through ultrasound, and another is by transilluminating or letting light through it. They would point a small light source through your lump. If the lump transilluminates, then it could be a ganglion cyst.

How to Get Rid of Ganglion Cysts

For some, their ganglion cysts eventually go away. What usually happens is that the fluid inside it gets absorbed by the body over time. If it is not painful, the doctor might recommend watching over it first and seeing if it disappears after a particular period. Usually, the cyst goes away after a year. If the cyst eventually ruptures, the affected area would be swollen, red, and sore for a few days, but typically, the cyst will not come back.

However, if you experience pain or see them become bigger without stopping, you need medical treatment immediately, which may result in one of two procedures. One is aspiration, wherein the doctor would puncture and drain the cyst using a needle. This process, however, does not guarantee that the cyst will not come back because of how it only addresses the “water balloon” and not the root of the problem. Another method is excision, which is a minor surgery that removes the cyst along with its stalk. 


Ganglion cysts are not life-threatening. In fact, you can decide to live with these lumps. However, they might make you feel uncomfortable at times. If you choose to remove them, make sure to talk to your doctor about the best method possible.

Should you need ganglion cyst surgery or a ganglion cyst removal, contact us at Hand & Wrist Center. We are a team of hand and wrist specialists who have been providing the best hand and wrist care since 1995. Call us at (904) 215-2422 to learn more about how we can help you with your concerns.