A ganglion cyst is a mass of tissue that is filled with a jelly-like fluid, similar to the fluid contained in a joint. The word “ganglion” means “knot” and is used to describe the knot-like mass or lump of cells that forms below the surface of the skin. The lump will be visually apparent and when pressed in a certain way, should move freely underneath the skin.
Ganglion cysts are among the most common benign soft-tissue masses. Although they most often occur on the wrist, they also frequently develop on the top of the foot. Ganglions vary in size, may get smaller and larger over time and may even disappear.
A ganglion cyst is associated with one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
A noticeable lump—often this is the only symptom experienced.
Tingling or burning if the cyst is touching a nerve.
Dull pain or ache which may indicate the cyst is pressing against a tendon or joint.
Difficulty wearing shoes due to irritation between the lump and the shoe.
Ganglion cysts are usually caused by some type of injury. For example, a ganglion cyst might develop after something drops on the foot, if the foot was twisted while walking, or after too much stress was placed on a joint or tendon. For some patients, the trauma that triggers this condition is something they do not recall.
There are various options for treating a ganglion cyst on the foot:
Monitoring, but no treatment: If the cyst causes no pain and does not interfere with walking, it may be appropriate to carefully watch the cyst over a period of time.
Shoe modifications: Wearing shoes that do not rub the cyst or cause irritation may be advised. In addition, placing a pad inside the shoe may help reduce pressure against the cyst.
Aspiration: This technique involves placing a syringe needle into the ganglion and draining the fluid. Sometimes the ganglion fluid cannot be aspirated. Although this approach is successful in some cases, in many others the cyst returns.
Surgery: When other treatment options fail or are not appropriate, the cyst may need to be surgically removed. While the recurrence rate associated with surgery is much lower than that experienced with aspiration, there are cases in which the ganglion cyst returns.
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