Have you ever noticed a lump or knot-like mass below the surface of your skin? If so, you might be experiencing a ganglion cyst. A ganglion cyst is a cystic swelling filled with a jelly-like fluid that typically originates from a tendon sheath or a joint capsule. They are most common on the wrist, but they can develop anywhere, such as on the foot, and they can vary in size, getting smaller or larger with time, and may even disappear completely, only to return later.
The cause of ganglion cysts is unknown; however, often they arise from trauma, whether it’s a single event or repetitive micro-trauma. A ganglion cyst is associated with several symptoms, including a noticeable lump, burning or tingling sensation if the cyst is touching a nerve, dull pain or ache which might indicate the cyst pressing against a tendon or joint, and difficulty wearing shoes due to irritation between the lump and the shoe.
It’s advisable to visit a foot and ankle surgeon to diagnose a ganglion cyst. The surgeon will perform a thorough examination of the foot, visually inspecting the lump and checking if it freely moves underneath the skin. Occasionally, the surgeon might shine a light through the cyst or remove a tiny amount of fluid from the cyst to evaluate it. Your doctor may also take an x-ray, and in some cases, additional imaging studies may be ordered to help diagnose your condition.
Most ganglion cysts require no treatment or surgery. If your cyst doesn’t cause pain and does not interfere with walking, the surgeon may decide to monitor it carefully over time. However, if the cyst causes irritation, pressing discomfort or pain, then other options can be used to treat the cyst. Modifying shoes to reduce pressure against the cyst and wearing well-fitting shoes to reduce irritation can help. In addition, doctors may drain the fluid and inject a steroid medication into the area. Although this method is successful in some cases, in many others, the cyst returns.
When other treatment options fail, and the cyst is not appropriate, surgical removal is deemed necessary. The recurrence rate is substantially lower with surgical removal than with aspiration of the cyst. However, in some cases, the ganglion cyst can return even after surgery.
If you have noticed a lump or knot-like mass below the surface of your skin or foot, it’s essential to see a licensed foot and ankle surgeon. Dr Gilbert Huang DPM, for example, has extensive experience and knowledge of the surgery and treatment of foot and ankle problems such as ganglion cysts. Your surgeon can offer you the best course of action depending on the extent of your cyst and the degree of discomfort it causes.