Synovial cysts, ganglia and cutaneous mucoid cysts are essentially the same thing. All three refer to a fluid filled mass under the skin. The fluid looks a lot like corn syrup or the white of an egg. Most are located under the skin, although occasionally they may be found in tendon or bone. The synovial or ganglionic cysts are connected to a nearby joint or tendon sheath by a small stalk. They therefore may be more resistant to treatment. Mucoid cysts, are not connected to a joint. If the cyst is located near the nail, it may cause the nail to grow funny.
HOW DOES IT FEEL?
Many mucous cysts are painless. Some people are worried about the way it looks, others worry that it may be a serious problem. The cysts are more likely to cause pain or discomfort when they are on the foot, because of pressure created by shoes on them. Occasionally, the cyst encloses or presses on a nerve, causing a shooting, electric type of pain.
LET’S DO A TEST!
Your doctor can identify a mucous cyst by how it feels when he/she touches it. In some cases, the doctor may order an x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, or CT. Rarely, a doctor might order an arthrogram, where dye is injected into the cyst, in an attempt to see if it is connected to a joint or tendon sheath.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
The cysts may form on their own, or may branch out from a joint. Most doctors feel that these cysts form as a result of small injuries that occur repeatedly over a long period of time. Essentially, they can be thought of as bubbles made of a thin layer of specialized cells that produce and surround the fluid.
WHAT CAN I DO FOR IT?
Anytime you notice a lump or mass, you should have it checked out by a doctor as soon as possible, even if it isn’t painful. If the cyst isn’t painful, it may be best to just watch it to see if it changes over time. If you have a painful ganglion, you can try padding the area around the lump or try changing your shoe gear to relieve the pressure.
WHAT WILL MY DOCTOR DO FOR IT?
Your podiatrist will look at and feel the lump. If it is a ganglion, the doctor will numb the area, then try to pull as much fluid out of the cyst as possible using a syringe. Many doctors will then inject a steroid or hardening agent into the cyst to try to prevent it from filling again. About half of the time, the cyst will fill up again after the treatment. The doctor will then give your the option of having it removed surgically.
CAN I PREVENT FROM IT HAPPENING AGAIN?
The best that we can do to avoid forming these cysts is to wear loose fitting comfortable shoes which don’t injure the feet. It is especially important to avoid wearing shoes which are tight over the bony top of the foot or instep, where many of these cysts form.