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Ganglion Cysts

These small, fluid-filled sacs form over joints or tendons and look like knots under the skin. They are among the most common benign soft-tissue masses, and they usually occur on the top of the foot. They vary in size and may get smaller and larger or disappear completely, only to return later.

What causes it?

The exact cause of ganglion cysts is unknown, but they may arise from trauma — either a single event or a repeated microtrauma.

How do you know you have it?

The most common sign is a visible lump, and it’s often the only symptom experienced. However, some people report:

  • Tingling or burning, which happens when the cyst is touching a nerve
  • A dull pain or ache, which indicates the cyst is pressing on a tendon or joint
  • Difficulty wearing shoes due to irritation between the lump and shoe

How we fix it

The OSI foot and ankle team is here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of a ganglion cyst. While you’re under our expert care, you will undergo the following to determine the best course of care:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will perform a careful exam of your foot. Since the lump is visible, your OSI doctor will press on it, and it should move freely beneath the skin. Your doctor may shine a light through the cyst or remove a small amount of fluid for evaluation.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Ganglion cysts are harmless, and there are a few treatment options:

  • Monitoring but no treatment. If the cyst doesn’t cause pain or interfere with walking, it might be best to monitor the cyst over time and do nothing else.
  • Changes in footwear. Switch to shoes that don’t rub on the cyst or cause irritation.
  • Aspiration and injection. The fluid can be drained and a steroid medicine injected into the cyst. More than one session may be required, and the cyst may return.

Surgical Treatment

If other treatment options fail or aren’t deemed appropriate by your doctor, the cyst may be surgically removed. This excision involves removing the cyst and part of the involved joint capsule or tendon sheath, which is considered the root of the cyst. The procedure is outpatient, and you’ll be able to go home after a short period of observation.


You may have tenderness, discomfort, and swelling after the procedure. However, you should be able to resume normal activities a few weeks after surgery. Even after excision, there is a small chance the cyst will return.