The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Growth Spurt: Ganglion Cyst

Posted by on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

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Sometimes things grow where you don’t want them to grow. A weed in the middle of your prize marigolds. A bluish fuzzy substance on that bowl of something in your refrigerator. A gray hair on your head. A squishy lump on your foot.

What was that? A squishy lump on your foot.

Yuck, I don’t want that. No, of course you don’t.

Does this thing I don’t want have a name? Yes, today we are talking about ganglion cysts.

Ganglion cysts? Those don’t sound nice at all. No, they don’t, but that’s why pretty flowers are called roses and nasty squishy lumps on your feet are called ganglion cysts.

Okay, what are they? Ganglion cysts are lumps filled with a jelly like substance. If you look at a cutaway of the inside of a ganglion cyst, the cells look like a mass of tangles, or knots–the word “ganglion” dates back to the time of Hippocrates, meaning knot. You may have heard of the basal ganglia in the brain, which also has a knotty, tangled appearance.

What causes them? Ganglion cysts seem to occur after injuries to an area of your foot. For example, if you drop something on your foot or twist it, a cyst may develop sometime after that.

How do I know I have one? Well, look for a squishy lump on the top of your foot. They aren’t just found on your foot, though; in fact, 80% occur on wrists. They also may occur on knees, ankles, or fingertips. But since we’re a foot blog, we’re going to concentrate on the foot or ankles ones.

Aside from the obvious appearance, you may also feel some pain from the cyst, especially if it’s near a nerve. The pain and size of the lump may make it difficult to put on shoes, which would be especially awesome if you’re trying to get dressed for your wedding and can’t fit your carefully chosen shoes over your squishy foot lump. The best thing to do if you find a lump on your foot, though, is to have it tested by a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900), just to make sure it’s a cyst and not something else.

What do I do about it? If the cyst isn’t particularly painful or causing you any real difficulties, a podiatrist will most likely recommend that you leave it alone to see if it will disappear by itself. You can use gel pads to protect it from rubbing against your shoe.

If it doesn’t disappear on its own, or if it becomes more painful, a podiatrist can aspirate it, or draw the fluid out of it with a needle. A steroid injection also can help bring down the swelling and hopefully keep it from refilling. Some drugs have also been known to help.

If nothing else helps surgery may be an option. However, it’s rare for that to be necessary.

So there you go–although no one wants to find a squishy lump on his or her foot, if it’s a ganglion cyst, you don’t have to worry about it.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.