A soft, painful lump has appeared on the top of your foot. Or maybe the side of your foot. Or maybe somewhere around your ankle. The lump changes size with activity. It might be sore, or it might just… be there.
If these symptoms match a lump on your foot or ankle, chances are you have a ganglion cyst, a noncancerous, round or oval lump that develops along a tendon or joint. Most are less than an inch in diameter, although some are so small they can hardly be felt. The size of the cyst can vary however, especially as the joint is used.
Normally, a ganglion cyst is painless and requires no treatment. But if it happens to be pressing on a nerve, it can cause pain, tingling, numbness, muscle weakness, or interfere with joint movement.
What causes a ganglion cyst?
Repeated irritation can weaken the lining of a joint or tendon, causing the tissue to bulge, which is then referred to as a ganglion cyst. Inside the cyst is a thick fluid similar to the lubricating fluid found in joints or around tendons.
People who wear boots, especially women between 20 and 30, are more likely to develop ganglion cysts, as this type of footwear puts stress on the foot and ankle. Bone spurs may also cause ganglion cysts by irritating the joints and tendons, and joints or tendons that have been injured, even long ago, are more likely to develop ganglion cysts.
Treatment for ganglion cysts:
**Because ganglion cysts may be mistaken for tumors, it’s essential to have a complete exam performed by a podiatrist, and if necessary, tests to confirm the diagnosis.
If your ganglion cyst is causing you no pain, your podiatrist may recommend a wait and see approach, as the cyst may go away on its own. If it’s causing you discomfort, she may suggest one of the following treatments:
Aspiration: In an exam room, your podiatrist will use a needle to drain the fluid from the cyst.
Immobilization: If it’s clear that activity is causing the cyst to enlarge, your doctor may recommend an air boot or similar device to immobilize your foot or ankle. As the cyst shrinks, pain and other symptoms may be relieved.
Padding: Soft pads placed around the ganglion cyst to ease pressure and friction.
Medication: If swelling and pain are severe, your podiatrist may recommend prescription medication.
Surgery: In some instances, surgery may be recommended to remove the cysts and its surrounding tissue, which is attached to a joint or tendon.