When You Should See a Doctor About a Cyst

You recognize a cyst as a sac-like structure that’s a little soft to the touch — it usually contains a liquid or semisolid substance. Some cysts aren’t even visible; they’re only detected under a microscope. Others can be large and cause discomfort, pain, and dysfunction.

Cysts can occur just about anywhere, but at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists, we’re most concerned with those on your joints and bones. If you have a cyst at your wrist, knee, or ankle, or another joint, understand the types. If you have pain or concerns about it, call us right away or book online to have one of our specialists evaluate and potentially remove it.

Baker’s cysts

A Baker’s cyst occurs at your knee. You feel a bulge and tightness behind the joint. You notice pain mostly when you extend your knee, when you fully flex it, or when you’re active hiking, running, or cycling. Treatment for the underlying conditions usually helps relieve the cyst symptoms.

Seek treatment for knee pain

A Baker’s cyst sometimes has no side effects — you just don’t notice it. Seek treatment, though, if the cyst causes swelling behind your knee or into your leg. You may also have knee pain or stiffness that makes full flexion of the knee impossible.

Have any bulges or knee swelling fully evaluated to ensure it’s not something more serious than a cyst. Plus, you can receive treatment to relieve discomfort from the cyst. Evaluation usually involves imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI.

Methods to resolve a Baker’s cyst

We may take a wait-and-see approach, because mild Baker’s cysts can often disappear on their own. A particularly large or painful cyst may benefit from fluid drainage via needle aspiration. We guide a needle to the cyst using ultrasound and drain some of the fluid to alleviate pain and stiffness.

Physical therapy is another option for helping preserve your knee’s function.

If an underlying problem, such as osteoarthritis, is responsible for the cyst, treatment focuses on that issue. If you have a cartilage tear, it may require surgery; arthritis treatments rarely require surgery.

Ganglion cysts

Ganglion cysts usually develop around a tendon. They most commonly occur at the wrist and are noncancerous and usually harmless. These cysts can come and go and often don’t require treatment unless they cause pain, are aesthetically displeasing, or interfere with your ability to function.

Seek treatment for wrist cysts

A ganglion cyst usually appears as a visible lump. If it’s large enough to bother you from an appearance standpoint, talk to our experts. The cyst may also put pressure on nerves in the area, causing pain and muscle weakness. If you have these symptoms, definitely make an appointment to come in. Sometimes you may have the symptoms without a visible cyst; small ganglion cysts can hide under your skin.

How to treat ganglion cysts

Ganglion cysts are benign and often disappear on their own with time. If your cyst isn’t particularly large, causing pain, or compromising nerves, we may recommend monitoring it to make sure nothing changes.

Activity, such as typing or other repetitive movement, can irritate the cyst, causing it to grow or shift and put pressure on the nerves. We may offer a brace or splint to immobilize the area and prevent this aggravation. Physical therapy that helps improve your range of motion and wrist strength is also of benefit.

We may aspirate the cyst by removing excess fluid using a needle, but this doesn’t address the root of the cyst, so it may recur. The aspiration does help alleviate stiffness and pain, however.

If the cyst persists and doesn’t respond to modest interventions, you may be a candidate for surgery.

We excise the cyst as well as the joint capsule or tendon sheath to which the cyst is attached. This usually resolves the problem, but in rare cases, the cyst can return.

Don’t tolerate pain from a cyst at your joints. Whether you have a fluid-filled lump at your knee, wrist, or elsewhere, come to Maryland Orthopedic Specialists for evaluation. Call one of our two offices to schedule an appointment, or use the online scheduling system.

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