What Is a Ganglion Cyst? - Definition, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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  • 0:03 What Is a Ganglion Cyst?
  • 0:37 Causes of Ganglion Cysts
  • 1:15 Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts
  • 1:44 Treatment Options
  • 2:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

While the term ganglion cyst may sound extraterrestrial, it refers to an often symptomless condition that can develop right in our own bodies. In this lesson, you'll find out what a ganglion cyst is, why it forms, what kind of symptoms develop, and how to treat it.

What Is a Ganglion Cyst?

Let's get right to the point. What on earth is a ganglion cyst? Well, simply put, it's a non-cancerous growth or lump that forms in the body, usually in the hands and wrists or ankles and feet. Rather than being solid, they're filled with a liquid or jelly-like substance, which gives them an odd consistency. Ganglion cysts vary in size. Some can be as small as a pea, while others may be up to an inch long! Ganglion cysts are typically round or oval in shape and can even be visible from the outside of the body.

Causes of Ganglion Cysts

So, what causes these little lumps to form in the first place? They're different from solid tumors, and scientists aren't exactly sure what causes their initial development. Ganglion cysts form directly out of a tendon or joint, like a bulb on a stick, and are filled with a substance similar to the lubricating fluids found within joints.

Though the exact causes are unknown, there are risk factors that may increase the likelihood of someone developing ganglion cysts. Though anyone may develop them, they are most commonly found in women in their 20's and 30's, in patients with existing arthritis, and in people who have suffered a joint or tendon injury.

Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts

We don't know what causes ganglion cysts to form, but we're familiar with the symptoms. Lumps on the extremities or other parts of the body may be painful, particularly when touched. Due to their fluid-filled consistency, they can also respond to external manipulation by moving. Large cysts may put pressure on the surrounding nerves, resulting in pain. However, in many cases, the lumps are too small to be seen or felt, in which case they are painless and symptomless.

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