Ganglion Cysts: What Sort Of Treatment Is Necessary?

A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled, soft tissue mass that can occur on your wrist or on the top of your foot. You can find these masses beneath the skin, and they normally feel like a firm, rubbery lump. Find out when you might need treatment for one of these cysts, and learn more about the sort of treatment you may need to undergo.

Causes and symptoms

Doctors aren't completely sure what causes these cysts, but the common belief is that these masses occur following trauma. Acute trauma can cause inflammation, which then liquefies into jelly. Connective tissue then forms a capsule around the jelly, leading to the lumpy ganglion cyst.

Ganglion cysts can cause a variety of symptoms, and you may feel the lump with your fingers without other painful side effects. However, some people experience a burning sensation, skin irritation or problems with mobility, especially while wearing shoes.


If you spot a lump that you think is a ganglion cyst, you should refer to a doctor or podiatrist. He or she will normally conduct a physical examination, where he or she will shine a light through the lump to see how solid the cyst is.

Other tests could include an X-ray or an ultrasound examination. These tests can help establish if there are other issues causing the problem. A MRI scan is sometimes necessary, especially if other tests are inconclusive.


Treatment isn't always necessary, especially if the cyst is small and painless. However, a doctor may suggest removal if the cyst is painful and/or causes problems while you are wearing shoes.

A simple treatment method is aspiration, where a doctor will drain the lump. You'll normally receive a local anaesthetic to numb the area, after which the doctor will use a needle to drain the fluid away. He or she will then sometimes inject a corticosteroid and/or a special enzyme to prevent the cyst returning.

Resection is a surgical procedure that can become necessary for larger ganglion cysts. You may also need this surgery if aspiration doesn't work. You won't normally need to stay in hospital for this procedure, and you can normally have the operation as an out-patient. You may need a local or general anaesthetic for the procedure, but your doctor will discuss this with you.

A surgeon will remove the entire ganglion wall during the procedure. He or she may also remove some of the surrounding tissue. Immobilisation may become necessary for a short period after the surgery, and you may need to use crutches to move about. Some tenderness, discomfort and swelling are likely, but the wound will normally heal within two weeks.

Ganglion cysts can cause painful symptoms on your feet. Talk to your doctor or podiatrist for more information or advice on cysts or heel pain.