Ganglion Cysts Specialists in Atlanta, GA

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

Ganglion cysts are a common occurrence for many individuals. Knowing what they are and how to identify the symptoms can provide insight into this typical condition. They can occur when joint fluid accumulates below the outer lining (called synovium) of a joint space. The cyst forms when some of that accrued fluid becomes trapped under a membrane.
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Ganglion cysts are small, benign tissue lumps seen in or near the joints. They do not harm the tissue or joint and should not cause pain. Cysts can also appear in other areas of your body, including fingers, toes, and neck. 

Long-term medical care is not necessary for this condition, but routine checkups with your doctor can help you learn more about ganglion cysts and prevent the development of complications. 

Visit our Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow team in Atlanta and Marietta, Georgia, for your assessment and treatment.

About Ganglion Cysts

Ganglion cysts can range in size, making it challenging to distinguish when they are smaller than a pea or worrisome if they are the size of a golf ball. 

Although they can happen to anyone, individuals between 15 and 40 are more prone to developing one. Additionally, women are more susceptible to cysts than men. In many cases, a cause for the cyst may not be identified.

The most commonly identified causes of ganglion cysts include:

  • Autoimmune – Your immune system could be attacking your body’s cells and causing an inflammatory response leading to these cysts.
  • Chronic health conditions – If you have arthritis or other chronic joint conditions, you could also face a ganglion cyst in your fingers. 
  • Genetic – Your genes could play a role in your risk of developing a ganglion cyst. If you have family members with these cysts, you’re more likely to develop them too.
  • Injury or trauma – Trauma or injury to the affected area can cause the tissues to become inflamed and thickened, causing a ganglion cyst to develop.
  • Repetitive activity or stress – If you are prone to using your hands and wrists continuously for work or recreation, your risk of developing ganglion cysts in your wrists or fingers is higher. 


What Are the Symptoms?

Simple cysts aren’t painful unless they press on another body part or become infected. Like other skin cysts, ganglion cysts in wrists or fingers may appear red and swollen. Then, they can break and leak fluid into your body. 

Typical symptoms of this condition will include: 

  • Numbness
  • Pain 
  • Swelling


Some ganglion cysts can lead to inflammation of nearby tissues. Symptoms can vary depending on where the damage occurs in your body.

Other signs you may have include: 

  • Pain in muscles or bones
  • Numb fingers or toes
  • Swelling under the skin


How Is It Evaluated?

Diagnosing and evaluating cysts may involve various methods, depending on your symptoms and your physician. 

Simple cysts aren’t usually diagnosed by X-ray, although they may appear on X-rays of an area where they reside. Diagnosis can also be from what you tell your doctor. Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and medical history. 

Other tests your physician may use to find the cause of your symptoms include:  

  • Blood tests that look for problems with blood vessels, organs, or tissues 
  • A physical examination to check for signs of infection
  • Imaging studies like X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans


How Is It Treated?

Treatment options for ganglion cysts in fingers and wrists vary based on the size and location of the cyst. Many small instances that reside under the skin and do not cause pain or interfere with mobility are left to resolve on their own. 

However, some situations with minor cysts may call for a minimally invasive treatment where a physician surgically drains the site. Once the fluid is drained, the area heals successfully without further intervention. 

In some cases,  cysts may require surgical removal. Candidates for this type of removal include those with a cyst larger than 4 cm (about 1.5 inches) in diameter, ones over a bony prominence or joint, and painful and/or recurrent cysts.

Final Thoughts

Your doctor may recommend additional procedures if the cyst doesn’t drain appropriately after one session. 

For example, suppose a cyst is in a joint and continues to swell over multiple treatment sessions. In this case, other treatments may successfully reduce swelling and potentially limit its growth. 

Your doctor may also recommend a review of the surgical removal of the cyst during your regular checkups.

If you are looking for relief from ganglion cysts, set up an appointment with a specialist at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow in Atlanta, and Marietta, Georgia. 

Medically reviewed by

Randall Alexander, MD