Ganglion Cyst

Noticing a distinct, unexpected and in many cases asymptomatic lump on your foot or ankle can be quite concerning. A common cause of these masses is a ganglion cyst, which are benign (meaning that they are non-cancerous) and have various approaches to treatment that we can help you with.

What Are Ganglion Cysts?

Ganglion cysts are smooth, fluid-filled masses that develop beneath the skin on the feet, as well as the hands and wrists. Ganglion cysts can either be painful or asymptomatic. The majority of these cysts we see are the latter. Ganglion cysts can also vary greatly in size, and tend to develop near the joints, often protruding at the top or bottom of the foot or ankle.

While the term ‘ganglion’ may initially leave the impression that this cyst is serious or potentially harmful, the cyst itself has nothing to do with the neural ‘ganglions’ you may have heard of, which describe a group of neural cells in our nervous system. Instead, their name traces back to the greek term for ‘knot’, or ‘swelling beneath the skin’.

The cause of a ganglion cyst currently remains unknown. It is thought that it may be related to injury, irritation or stress to the foot or ankle, which may result in synovial fluid leaking from a joint and collecting in a sac beneath the skin.

Ganglion Cyst Signs & Symptoms

Ganglion cysts present as noticeable, round lumps that feel jelly-like when pressed upon. Their average size is just below 3cm. The location of the cyst usually determines whether you feel any pain - while they are not painful on their own, if their location means that they push against ligaments, tendons or other structures, then you may experience pain or tenderness. If the cyst pushes against a nerve, you may experience tingling, pins and needles, burning or numbness in the area. Tight shoes may also press against the cyst and cause irritation or tenderness.

Ganglion cysts are also unpredictable - appearing spontaneously, increasing in size without a distinct cause, and disappearing and reappearing from time to time.

How Do You Make A Ganglion Cyst Go Away?

Due to their unpredictable nature, it can be difficult to make a ganglion cyst go away without having it either surgically drained or removed. With this said, ganglion cysts do not always require treatment, particularly if they’re not producing any symptoms or interfering with your daily life. To find out all of your options and decide what is best for you, book in for a consultation with your podiatrist. They’ll also confirm that the lump is a cyst, and is not being caused by anything else.

What Is The Best Treatment For A Ganglion Cyst?

Options for ganglion cyst treatment include:

  • Monitoring it: If the cyst is not causing you any pain and does not interfere with daily tasks like walking, you may decide together with your podiatrist to monitor the cyst over time, as 58% of cysts have been reported to spontaneously resolve over time. In this case, your podiatrist can offer you reassurance, and teach you any signs to look out for, and what to do if you begin experiencing any discomfort.
  • Footwear advice or modifications: If the cause of your discomfort is coming from your shoes, your podiatrist can discuss with you suitable shoe options that will help prevent this discomfort, or suggest modifications to your existing shoes to make daily life more comfortable for you. We can also perform an in-shoe pressure analysis to understand the pressure on areas of your feet when you’re wearing a specific pair of shoes.
  • Orthotics: At times, the location of a ganglion cyst on the bottom of the foot can make it difficult to walk comfortably or stay active. In these cases, we may create a pair of custom foot orthotics that have an accommodation for the cyst to allow you to live and move comfortably, even with the cyst present.
  • Aspiration: during ganglion cyst aspiration, a needle is inserted into the cyst to drain it into the syringe. We will remove as much fluid as possible with this technique
  • Surgical removal: we can also refer you for surgical excision of the ganglion cyst, where under anaesthesia, the cyst is separated from the nearby tendons, nerves and blood vessels, and then removed.

Is It Better To Drain Or Remove A Ganglion Cyst?

Your podiatrist will discuss this with you in relation to your symptoms, how the cyst is interfering with your daily life, and your goals. Aspirating (draining) the cyst has notable benefits, such as being much less invasive, being able to be performed inside the clinic without “going for surgery”, and having a very fast recovery time. You’ll notice an immediate improvement in your symptoms, since removing the fluid eases the pressure on the area. Studies show that ganglion aspiration has a very high satisfaction rate among patients.

Ganglion Cyst Incision & Drainage Procedure

  • The area of the cyst is disinfected, and local anaesthetic is administered to make your procedure painless
  • We then insert a long needle attached to a syringe into the cyst, moving it to the right location
  • We then slowly pull back to drain the fluid from the cyst into the syringe
  • Once complete, we’ll dress the area appropriately, providing you with instructions on how to best care for the area over the next few days


Does it hurt to get a ganglion cyst drained?
As we use local anaesthetic to numb the area, there is no further pain.

How long does it take to recover from ganglion cyst drainage?

Recovery is very quick - you are free to go home after your procedure, and any discomfort you may experience after that is simply related to the insertion of a needle.

Joint mobility after treatment

As the volume of the cyst can interfere with joint mobility, once the cyst is drained, you should experience improved joint mobility.

Can a ganglion cyst come back?

Yes, the nature of a ganglion cyst means that they can reappear at any time for no specific reason, regardless of your choice of treatment.



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