Ask a Doctor: Ganglion Cysts

Ask a Doctor: Ganglion Cysts

Dr. Khurram Pervaiz answers your questions about ganglion cysts.

My doctor told me I have a “ganglion cyst.” What is that?

A ganglion “cyst” is a benign (not cancer) mass that can occur in the hand or wrist. The cyst is composed of a sac filled with fluid.

What causes a ganglion cyst?

No one knows exactly why this happens, but a defect in the joint capsule causes fluid to leak out into the soft tissues and cause the cyst.

What are some of the symptoms of a ganglion cyst?

Ganglion cysts can happen in different parts of the hand and wrist. They most commonly appear on the “back” of the wrist. They may also affect the palm side of the wrist, hand or fingers. They sometimes are attached to a finger tendon. A ganglion cyst can change in size. Some hurt, and others do not.

How can you treat a ganglion cyst?

Treatment of a ganglion cyst is based on your symptoms. If your hand surgeon believes that the mass in your hand or wrist is a cyst and if you do not have pain, s/he might advise you to do nothing and to just keep an eye on it.

If it hurts, your hand surgeon may recommend rest, a brace or anti-inflammatory medication. If these treatment options do not work, then an office procedure called aspiration might be performed. This involves numbing the skin and the cyst wall with lidocaine (numbing medication) and using a needle to drain the cyst. This generally leads to a decrease in cyst size and pain.

If the cyst comes back after aspiration, then it can be removed surgically. The surgery is generally performed on an outpatient basis, and early use of the hand and wrist is allowed in most cases.

Learn more about ganglion cysts and other hand conditions at

Khurram Pervaiz, MD is a partner at the Orthopedic Associates of Central Maryland (OACM) Division of the Centers for Advanced Orthopedics (CAO) in Columbia, MD and specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery. He completed his orthopedic surgery training at VCU Medical Center in Richmond and completed sub-specialty fellowships in hand surgery and shoulder & elbow surgery at the Cleveland Clinic and the Florida Orthopedic Institute.

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