Ganglion Cysts - Diagnosis & Treatment

How are ganglion cysts diagnosed?

In general, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to determine if you have a ganglion cyst. During this exam, your doctor may:

  • Apply pressure to your cyst to test for tenderness or discomfort.
  • Shine a light through your cyst to see if it's a solid mass or filled with fluid.

If needed, your doctor may also:

  • Recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. These tests can help to detect hidden cysts and rule out other conditions such as arthritis or a tumour.
  • Extract the fluid in your cyst to confirm the diagnosis. Ganglion cyst fluid is typically thick and clear or translucent.

How are ganglion cysts treated?

In general, ganglion cysts do not require treatment as they tend to be painless. If your cyst causes pain or affects joint movement, your doctor may recommend:

  • Aspiration, a procedure that uses a needle and syringe to remove the fluid from the cyst and decompress it. The cyst may recur after aspiration and cause symptoms.
  • Temporary brace or splint to limit further activity, as repetitive motions can increase the cyst's size. If the cyst shrinks, it may reduce the pressure on your nerves and associated pain. Long-term use of a brace or splint is not recommended as it can cause muscle weakening.
  • Surgery if other treatments are ineffective. This procedure involves the removal of the cyst and stalk that attaches it to your joint or tendon.
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