What To Do About a Mucous Cyst

What To Do About a Mucous Cyst

It’s normal to be worried if you find a lump on your hand, wrist, or fingers, but these bumps are rarely serious. They don’t often cause medical complications, but can sometimes be painful, aesthetically displeasing, and get in the way of function.

Mucous-filled cysts are related to ganglion cysts, which occur along the tendons or joints of your wrist and hands. A mucous cyst most often occurs around your finger joint, just at the base of the fingernail. 

It’s a good idea to have a professional check the cyst to confirm that it’s benign. Mucous cysts don’t usually require treatment, but if you want to have one removed, our hand specialist, Peter G. Fitzgibbons, MD, at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists is ready to help. 

You may choose to have it removed because it’s bothersome, ready to rupture, or especially large.

How do I know it’s a mucous cyst?

Anyone can develop a mucous cyst, including teens and middle-aged adults, but they’re most common in older adults.

Mucous cysts are usually associated with osteoarthritis of the nearby joint. A cyst looks like a small, smooth wart or blister. It’s smooth or shiny and typically about the size of a pencil eraser. Usually, it rests at the base of fingernails on the skin. 

If you accidentally bump the cyst, it may rupture and ooze out a clear jelly-like substance. This puts the cyst at risk of developing infection, with swelling, redness, pus drainage, and increased pain. 

A physical exam is usually enough to confirm your diagnosis. Mucous cysts don’t require a biopsy. Dr. Fitzgibbons may order an X-ray to look for osteoarthritis or bone spurs. 

Should I seek care for a mucous cyst?

Usually a cyst is just a cosmetic problem and doesn’t require formal treatment. Many go away on their own.

If your cyst is large, painful, or causing serious fingernail deformity, get it checked out. Also, if it ruptures or you puncture it on purpose, make an appointment to have it treated and avoid infection. 

Infection can progress to septic joint arthritis or bone infection. 

How do you treat mucous cysts?

Dr. Fitzgibbons offers various treatments, depending on the size of the mucous cyst and how symptomatic it is.

He may drain the cyst in the office. This is a safer way to shrink the cyst because we use a sterile needle and proper dressings. Recurrence following drainage is common.

If you have a large cyst or one that’s ready to rupture, Dr. Fitzgibbons may recommend surgery. He can also remove any underlying bone spurs to greatly discourage the cyst from returning. 

If your cyst was large, you may need a skin graft to fill the hole left by the cyst. We do this surgery on an outpatient basis with local anesthesia.

Surgery has a 90% cure rate, so it’s unlikely the mucous cyst will recur.

For cysts that are infected, you undergo surgical drainage and treatment with antibiotics. 

If you have a concerning or bothersome mucous cyst, reach out to us at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists. Call our Bethesda or Germantown, Maryland, office or set up an appointment here to get a comprehensive evaluation.

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