Ganglions: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation
Dorsal wrist ganglion

Overview

A ganglion is a small sac, or cyst, filled with a clear fluid that is like jelly. A ganglion may look like a bump on the hand or wrist. It also can appear on your feet, ankles, knees, or shoulders. It is not cancer. A ganglion can grow out of the protective area, or capsule, around a joint. It also can grow on a tendon sheath, which covers the ropelike tendons that connect muscle to bone. A ganglion may hurt or cause numbness if it presses on a nerve.

Many ganglions do not need treatment, and they often go away on their own. But if a ganglion hurts, becomes larger, causes numbness, or limits your activity, your doctor may want to drain it with a needle and syringe or remove it with minor surgery.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Use a wrist or finger splint for several weeks. This may be all that is needed for the ganglion to shrink and disappear on its own. Make sure that the splint isn't too tight. Numbness, tingling, pain, or coolness in your hand are signs that you need to loosen the splint.
  • Do not smash a ganglion with a book or other heavy object. You may break a bone or otherwise injure your wrist by trying this folk remedy, and the ganglion may return anyway.
  • Do not try to drain the fluid by poking the ganglion with a pin or any other sharp object. You could cause an infection.
  • If the ganglion breaks open on its own and the skin is broken:
    • Cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a nonstick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the cyst.
    • Pus draining from the cyst.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have increasing pain.
  • Your ganglion is getting larger.
  • You still have pain or numbness from a ganglion.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter X858 in the search box to learn more about "Ganglions: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.