Ganglion cysts are benign, hard lumps of tissue that contain fluid and typically develop along the tendons of the ankle or foot. They can get bigger over time, but some do shrink and disappear spontaneously. Ganglion cysts that do not resolve on their own tend to cause significant discomfort and require treatment.

Causes And Symptoms

Ganglion cysts can occur when there's no apparent reason, but common causes of this type of cyst include trauma, overuse and joint stress, which can happen if you engage in high-impact exercise. If you have a health condition that causes joint inflammation, you are also at an increased risk of developing this type of cyst.

Ganglion cysts are clearly visible and tend to cause pain that can radiate from the cyst to the surrounding tissue, particularly when wearing footwear that can rub on the cyst. Additionally, localised numbness or tingling can be present, and this may be constant or intermittent.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Ganglion cysts are diagnosed and treated by podiatrists. Your podiatrist will examine your foot and check that the cyst is filled with fluid by shining a bright light through it. They will palpate the cyst to determine the level of discomfort it is causing and how pressure affects it. Your podiatrist may also refer you for diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI or X-ray of your foot, if they think there's a possibility it could be another type of cyst.

Treatment for a ganglion cyst typically includes aspiration, which can bring immediate relief from pain. You will have a thin needle inserted directly into the cyst and the fluid will be drained out. Aspiration can be done using a local anaesthetic, and your podiatrist may recommend you wear a supportive splint or foot brace after the procedure. This will offer protection from knocks or rubbing and limit mobility, which can allow the cyst to heal more quickly. When aspiration and supportive foot aids are not effective, you may need to have the cyst surgically removed. Surgery is carried out as a day case, and you will need to stay off the affected foot while it heals. Your podiatrist will then show you how to do some targeted foot exercises to keep your foot supple and help restore full mobility.

Ganglion cysts respond better to conservative treatment when they are diagnosed early and haven't been left to grow. So, if you have a cyst on your foot or ankle, schedule a consultation with your podiatrist as soon as possible.