A bone cyst occurs as a result of fluids filling up a cavity that develops inside a bone. This condition can affect people of any age, especially children and adolescents. Bone cysts are not cancerous and they don’t pose any threat to health. However, if a cyst enlarges, it can weaken the bone structurally, making it easy to break or fracture.There are two types of bone cysts: unicameral bone cysts and aneurysmal bone cysts.
- Unicameral Bone Cysts
This is the most common type of bone cyst. It can develop in any part of the body, sometimes in bones of the foot or ankle. However, they are commonly seen in the upper arm or thigh. They are mostly seen in children between the ages of 5 to 15 years, and more prevalent among boys than girls.
- Aneurysmal Bone Cysts
Aneurysmal bone cysts are not as common as unicameral bone cysts. It is a condition where the bone has a pocket of blood inside it. It can develop in any part of the body, especially the legs, upper arms, pelvis or spine.
It is common in children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 20. It is more prevalent in females than males.
What Causes Bone Cysts?
The real cause of unicameral bone cysts is not known. However, a a widely accepted theory is that they can occur as a result of problems with the drainage of interstitial fluid from the growing parts of the bone.
Aneurysmal bone cysts, on the other hand, can develop as a result of a previous injury or a growth inside the bone. This can cause an abnormality in the blood vessels inside the affected bone.
Symptoms of Bone Cysts
Unicameral bone cysts do not usually have symptoms, unless the affected bones become weak enough to break or fracture. This will cause:
- Severe pain and inflammation
- Bruising around the bone
- Difficulty in moving the injured body part
This is common in the upper arms or legs. You can also experience pain without any signs of fracture. Unicameral bone cysts can affect the normal growth of the affected bone.
The symptoms of an aneurysmal bone cyst include:
- Severe pain and inflammation
- A lump in the bone
- Difficulty in movement caused by weakness or stiffness in the affected area of the body.
- The temperature of the affected area can become warm
When an aneurysmal bone cyst develops in the spine, it can cause additional symptoms, such as:
- Muscular weakness
- Pain in the arms or legs
- Tingling feeling in the arms and legs
- Inability to control bladder or the bowel movement
Treatment of Bone Cysts
If a bone cyst is relatively small and the surrounding bone is strong, there may be no need for immediate treatment. However, you may wish to schedule routine check-ups to ensure the cyst is not growing larger. If there is no sign of healing, or the bone is weakened, you may need to opt for surgical treatment.
Your podiatric surgeon may use steroid injections, bone marrow injections or curettage and bone grafting. These surgical treatments are carried out while you are asleep and you will not feel any pain.
Aneurysmal bone cysts require treatment as they tend to enlarge quickly and are unlikely to improve on their own. Treatment of aneurysmal bone cysts usually consists of one of the following procedures:
- Carrying out a biopsy of the cyst, which can simulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms
- Using curettage and bone grafting
- Blocking the blood supply to the vessels close to the cyst (embolisation)
- Freezing to damage the tissue of the cyst by applying liquid nitrogen.
Your foot doctor may also recommend that the cyst be sampled and sent for laboratory analysis, in order to ensure that it is benign and no further considerations should be taken into account. With curettage and bone grafting procedures of the foot or ankle, there will be a period during recovery when the patient should avoid weight-bearing, possibly requiring a cast or walking boot until the bone has begun to heal. This may affect your mobility for a period of 4-8 weeks, depending on the location and severity of the bone cyst.
Houston podiatrist Gabriel Maislos, DPM, FACFAS, has diagnosed and treated bone cysts successfully for many years, particularly in the heel and ankle areas. At Houston Foot and Ankle Care, we can refer you to the best imaging providers for any necessary X-rays, MRIs or CT Scans to ensure that we have total visibility of the bone cyst prior to any treatment procedure, especially surgery. Your foot and ankle health is of the utmost importance to us. If you’ve been told in the past that you have a bone cyst of the foot that you should monitor – or one that is starting to cause pain or discomfort – call (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Maislos. We accept all major forms of medical insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. For patients without insurance, we also offer discounted cash pricing.