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Ganglion Cyst II

Q: My hands often get stiff from typing, so I take frequent massage breaks to work out the kinks. Then the other day I discovered a pencil-eraser-sized lump on the back of my wrist. Now I can't stop checking it out. It moves around when I press on it, and it feels sore from time to time. Could it be serious?

Dr. Donnica:
It sounds like you have a ganglion cyst, a common and harmless lump that may be exacerbated from any type of wrist overuse, including hours of typing at a computer. Their cause is unknown. They occur when the cushioning jelly-like fluid in joints and tendon sheaths leaks and forms a pocket. Since they usually develop in nerve-rich wrists or the base of a thumb or finger, tenderness or pain is a common side effect, but 35% of people with ganglion cysts have no symptoms. Fortunately, one to two thirds of ganglion cysts resolve on their own.

Ganglion cysts are also known as "Bible cysts" because people used to try "treating them" by smashing a large book (like a Bible) on top of them. Do not do this! To help speed healing, try these tips for taking the pressure off your wrist when typing (for instance, raise your chair so the hand and elbow are parallel or use a wrist rest that helps retain the right pressure-easing angle). Immobilizing the wrist with a splint may also help. If the lump remains and doesn't bother you aesthetically or physically, there's no need to take further action. However, if pain persists and/or the lump enlarges, see your doctor: Ganglion cysts can be "aspirated" with a needle (which draws out fluids), or removed surgically if they interfere with range of motion. While these treatments may be successful in up to 75% of patients, ganglions commonly recur after aspiration or surgery.

Created: 12/29/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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