Remember that abnormal bump that once appeared on your wrist or the back of your palm from nowhere? The one that you waved off as the result of over-straining your wrists while working on your laptop? Well, there is more to it than just straining your wrists. Bumps are cysts that form on the back of your hand due to subtle abnormalities on the exterior tendon sheath. These abnormalities cause an over-production of a fluid that flows into the subcutaneous tissue. The fluid, which is rich in protein content, irritates the skin thereby forming a cyst. 1
A cyst on the wrist can be of different varieties. The most common of which is called the Ganglion Cyst.
What Is A Ganglion Cyst?
A Ganglion Cyst rises and grows out of the tissues surrounding a joint like ligaments, tendon sheaths, and joint linings. Inside the balloon shaped cyst is a thick and slippery fluid.
Such cysts can appear and disappear quite rapidly. They can develop in several joints of the hand and wrist, including the top and underside of the wrist, as well as the end joint or base of a finger. They are not cancerous and harmless in most cases.2
Why Do Ganglion Cysts Occur?
Young people between the ages of fifteen to forty usually have these cysts, as do gymnasts. While a cause has not be established, we can assume that it is during this period that we spend most time driving, or with our computers, which may exacerbate the problem.3
Symptoms Of Ganglion Cysts
Most Ganglions form a prominent lump on the wrist. However, smaller ones remain hidden under the skin. Though no other symptoms can be noticed, sometimes, if the cyst puts pressure on the nerves that pass through that joint, it can cause some discomfort with regard to pain, tingling and muscle weakness.4
Should You Be Worried?
Ganglion Cysts are quite common and harmless. However, there can be some discomfort associated with them. For example, they may exert pressure on an adjacent joint or may cause pain and tingling, followed by a weakening of the muscle.5 If the cyst is large, its appearance could be a cause for concern.
Diagnosis Of A Ganglion Cyst
A physical examination and medical review may help a medical practitioner diagnose the cyst. X-rays may be helpful in evaluating the bones, joints as well as soft tissue. Further analysis such as an ultrasound, CT, MRI or even bone scans may be done to narrow down the diagnosis. Sometimes, if a surgeon suspects a tumor, they might want to opt for incision biopsy (cutting out a small sample of the cyst) in order to confirm the diagnosis before proceeding for a treatment.6
How Are The Cysts Treated?
There are a number of ways to treat a Ganglion, but leaving it alone is the best option in most cases. Since a Ganglion is not cancerous, waiting for it to disappear does not cause any harm. Your doctor may ask you to keep observing it and note any changes in it.
However, sometimes, a Ganglion may cause severe pain and discomfort. In such cases, a wrist brace or a splint is your best bet to relieve you of the pain. Once the pain is slightly more manageable, your doctor may suggest you exercises to strengthen the wrist and regain the range of motion.
In case the Ganglion causes unbearable pain and severely limits activities, the fluid may be drained from it. This process is called aspiration. The area surrounding the cyst is numbed and the cyst is then punctured with a needle to drain out the fluid inside. However, this method of treatment often proves to fail as the root cause or the connection with the joint or tendon sheath is not removed. Due to this, a Ganglion may re-grow.7
If a bump on the wrist only seems to be growing, or if it causes you discomfort on a daily basis, it is best to seek advice from a medical practitioner.
|↑1||Anderson, Bruce Carl. Office Orthopedics for Primary Care: Diagnosis. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2006.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑4||Ganglion Cyst of the Wrist and Hand. American Academy Of Orthopedic Surgeons.|
|↑5||Anderson, Bruce Carl. Office Orthopedics for Primary Care: Diagnosis. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2006.|
|↑6||HAND TUMORS AND WRIST TUMORS. American Society For Surgery Of The Hand.|
|↑7||Ganglion Cyst of the Wrist and Hand. American Academy Of Orthopedic Surgeons.|