A ganglion cyst of the foot is a fluid-filled sac this often forms over a joint or tendon. They can appear anywhere on the body, most commonly on feet, wrists and hands. Ganglion cysts are visible just under the surface of the skin. They are typically round in shape, and filled with a jelly-like fluid that is thick, clear and odorless. These growths vary in size as well, and can develop rapidly, or over many years. Women between the ages of 20-40 are more prone to developing ganglion cysts.
Causes of Ganglion Cysts
There is no definitively known cause for a ganglion cyst. However, it is believed that such cysts are caused by trauma to the affected area. This causes the tissue of the joint to break down into small cysts that can then form larger cysts. Also, there are two main risk factors that can cause ganglion cysts to develop: a joint or tendon that has been injured before can develop a ganglion cyst, and constant use of certain joints can also cause the ganglion cyst to develop. This has been observed among female gymnasts.
A ganglion cyst is a non-cancerous form of cyst and may not spread to other areas of the body.
Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts
Ganglion cysts of the foot usually appear as a lump on top of the foot. The lump is usually soft and it changes in size. When the lump presses against a nerve, it can cause a burning sensation and pain. If it presses against a joint or tendon, it can limit your movement. Although a ganglion cyst is mostly painless and harmless, it can cause some degree of pain after an acute or repetitive trauma. It may be difficult to wear shoes because the cyst can rub against it, causing irritation.
Treatment of Ganglion Cysts
Ganglion cysts are normally treated in one of the following ways:
- Monitoring the cyst – If the cyst is not causing you pain and does not limit your movement, your foot doctor may recommend that you monitor the cyst over a period of time.
- Immobilization – Putting the affected area to constant use can increase the size of the cyst. To prevent this, use a splint or brace on the area to limit movement. With time, the size of the cyst may reduce.
- Aspiration (drainage) and Injection – The most common form of treatment for large ganglion cysts is the drainage (aspiration) of the fluid within the mass. Your doctor will administer a local anesthetic to numb the area and then use a large needle to remove the fluid. A steroid medication is then injected into the lump. You may need to do this more than once to totally eradicate the lump.
- Shoe modifications – You can wear shoes that have enough room to prevent the cyst from causing irritation. You can also insert a pad inside the shoe to reduce the pressure against the cyst.
- Surgery – Surgery may be needed if the aspiration (drainage) does not work, the cyst is big and interfering with the day to day activities (limiting your movement), or causing tingling and numbness on the foot.
While ganglion cysts are benign and usually painless, it’s important have any new growths properly identified and learn about your care and treatment options. Dr. Gabriel Maislos is a board certified Houston podiatrist who treats patients for a wide range of issues, including cysts, heel pain, plantar fasciitis, ingrown toenails, neuromas and more. Call Houston Foot and Ankle Care at (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment. We accept all major insurance, and offer same-day and next-day appointments.