During the physical exam, a health care provider might press on the cyst to see if it hurts. Shining a light through the cyst might show if it's solid or filled with fluid.

Imaging tests — such as an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI — can help confirm the diagnosis as well as rule out other conditions, such as arthritis or a tumor.

Fluid drawn from the cyst with a needle might confirm the diagnosis. Fluid from a ganglion cyst is thick and clear.

More Information


Ganglion cysts are often painless and need no treatment. Your health care provider might recommend watching the cyst for any changes. If the cyst causes pain or gets in the way of joint movement, you may need to:

  • Keep the joint from moving. Activity can cause a ganglion cyst to grow. So wearing a brace or splint to keep the joint still for a time might help. As the cyst shrinks, it may release the pressure on nerves, relieving pain. But long-term use of a brace or splint can weaken nearby muscles.
  • Drain the cyst. Draining the fluid from the cyst with a needle might help. But the cyst can come back.
  • Surgery. This may be a choice if other approaches don't work. Surgery involves removing the cyst and the stalk that attaches it to the joint or tendon. Rarely, surgery can injure the nearby nerves, blood vessels or tendons. And the cyst can come back, even after surgery.

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Lifestyle and home remedies

What not to do

An old home fix for a ganglion cyst involves hitting the cyst with a heavy object. This isn't a good thing to do. The force of the blow can damage hands or feet. Also, sticking a needle in the cyst to try to "pop" it can lead to infection.

Preparing for your appointment

You might start by seeing your primary care provider. You might then get a referral to a hand or foot surgeon.

What you can do

Before your appointment, you might want to write down answers to the following questions:

  • How long have you had the lump? Does it come and go?
  • Have you ever injured the joint nearest the lump?
  • Do you have arthritis?
  • What medicines and supplements do you take regularly?

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider is likely to ask you questions, such as:

  • Do you have pain or tenderness?
  • Does the bump keep you from using your joint?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
Jan. 12, 2023
  1. De Keyser F. Ganglion cysts of the wrist and hand. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 21, 2022.
  2. Frontera WR, et al. Hand and wrist ganglia. In: Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Oct. 21, 2022.
  3. Ferri FF. Ganglia. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2023: Elsevier, 2023. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Oct. 21, 2022.
  4. Ganglion cysts. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. https://www.assh.org/handcare/condition/ganglion-cyst. Accessed Oct. 21, 2022.
  5. Ganglion cyst of the wrist and hand. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/ganglion-cyst-of-the-wrist-and-hand/. Accessed Oct. 21, 2022.


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