Ganglion cysts are benign, or noncancerous, and may disappear on their own over time. If you do not have symptoms, your doctor may recommend simply observing the cyst to make sure that no unusual changes occur. However, if a ganglion cyst in the wrist puts pressure on the nerves, it can cause pain, tingling, and muscle weakness; it can also hinder joint movement. If this occurs, NYU Langone doctors may recommend treatment in order to shrink the cyst and alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.
Ganglion cysts can often be treated without surgical intervention. Your doctor may recommend the following treatments before considering surgery.
Certain activities requiring the use of the joint affected by a ganglion cyst may cause the cyst to increase in size, which places pressure on the nerves and causes pain. Your doctor may recommend that you wear a brace or splint to limit movement of the joint, which can stop discomfort and even make the ganglion cyst disappear entirely.
As pain decreases, your doctor may prescribe exercises to strengthen the joint and improve your range of motion. After you learn them, these exercises can be performed at home.
If a ganglion cyst causes a great deal of pain or severely limits your day-to-day activities, your doctor may drain fluid from the cyst using a procedure called aspiration. In this procedure, the surrounding area is numbed with a local anesthetic, and the cyst is punctured with a needle, so that fluid can be drained.
Aspiration shrinks the ganglion cyst but may fail to eliminate it, because the cyst’s connection to the joint or tendon sheath—its “root”—is not removed and can grow back. If this happens, your doctor may need to perform another aspiration to drain the cyst.
At NYU Langone, our radiologists and surgeons use ultrasound—in which high-frequency sound waves are bounced off parts of the body and capture the returning “echoes” as images—to help them locate the exact location of the cyst and guide the aspiration procedure.
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