Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ


My mother has some ugly looking soft bumps on the top of her hand/wrist, which her doctor says are ganglion cysts. I couldn't understand her explanation though. What are ganglion cysts?


A ganglion cyst is a mass or benign tumor (benign means not cancerous) on the top of a joint o on the sheath (covering) of a tendon. They can be large or small, and can feel spongy or firm. More women than men get them and they most often start appearing between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Although ganglion cysts can appear anywhere, the most common spots are the back of the hand on the wrist, followed by the palm side of the wrist. They can also be found at the base of the fingers, around the shoulder, knee or ankle, or on the top of the foot. These cysts, for some reason, become inflamed and filled with fluid. Doctors don't really know what causes these cysts, but some people report injuring the area before they notice the cysts developing. Some of the cysts are painful, while others aren't. Depending on their position and how big they are, they can cause tenderness and make it difficult for you to use the joint. Scott G. Edwards, MD, and John A. Johansen, MD. Prospective Outcomes and Associations of Wrist Ganglion Cysts Resected Arthroscopically. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. March 2009. Vol. 34. No 3. Pp. 395-400.

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