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California Foot & Ankle Institute

Ganglion Cysts

Holding sore footFew things are as worrisome as coming across an unexpected lump. While some bumps can certainly be cancerous, many others are benign. It is recommended that all abnormal masses be examined and identified by a professional, but one of the possible culprits for a lump on your foot may be a ganglion cyst. These fluid-filled sacs are not typically harmful, but can still cause pain under certain circumstances.

A Tricky Knot

The term “ganglion” means “knot,” and can be a fitting description of what the mass feels like. A ganglion cyst tends to develop along a joint or tendon in your foot or ankle, although your hands and wrists can also have a lump.

The bump in question is usually round or oval in shape, ranging in size from a pea to a couple centimeters in diameter. The bulge is filled with a thick, jelly-like liquid much like the lubricant found around joints and tendons. We don’t yet know exactly why this type of cyst develops, but it is most commonly found in women between the ages of 20 and 40. Those with “wear-and-tear” arthritis, or who have injured their joints or tendons in the past, are also more likely to develop a cyst.

Most of the time, the lump of the cyst is the only symptom noticed. There is usually no pain or discomfort unless it is pressing up against a joint, tendon, or nerve. The bump might also make wearing shoes more of a bother if they rub together.

Fit to be Untied

Identifying a potential ganglion cyst is the first step toward providing the right treatment. When you come see the doctors at California Foot and Ankle Institute for an evaluation, we will often check for tenderness and discomfort, and may even shine a light through the bump to see if we can tell whether it’s filled with fluid. We might also run an imaging test or draw some of the fluid out of the cyst to rule out other conditions.

If the bump is determined to be a cyst but is not causing you any pain or difficulty, there might be no need for any action at all. The cyst would be monitored over time to make sure it doesn’t change or create other problems. If the cyst is causing irritation when wearing shoes, then orthotics or inserts may be recommended to keep pressure away from that area.

Cysts that are more troublesome can be drained and then injected with a steroid medication. It may take several treatments for the cyst to disappear, and there are no guarantees that it simply won’t return later. Surgery might also become an option, but while cysts that are removed this way tend to be less likely to return, there is still some risk that they can.

Whatever you do, don’t attempt to drain a cyst on your own. These attempts are often not very effective and can lead to infection.

If you believe you have a ganglion cyst or another type of lump on your foot or ankle, schedule an appointment with us for a full evaluation. You can reach us toll-free at (888) 796-6631. You can also directly call our offices at (760) 951-2000 for Victorville or (949) 833-3406 for Irvine.