Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Ganglia

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2019| Content last modified Oct 2019
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What is ganglia?

Ganglia (also called ganglion cysts) are lumps that form on hands and wrists. Ganglia are usually found over a joint. They are filled with jellylike fluid and aren't cancerous.

What causes ganglia?

Doctors don't know why ganglia form. They may be related to a prior injury. Sometimes, ganglia on the back of a finger is related to arthritis in the finger joint.

What are the symptoms of ganglia?

The only symptom of ganglia is the lump on your wrist or hand. The lump is:

  • Firm, smooth, and round or oval

  • Filled with clear, jellylike sticky fluid

  • Usually painless, but some people have mild discomfort

Ganglia may:

  • Change size

  • Form slowly over time or show up suddenly

  • Go away without treatment and come back at another time

How can doctors tell if I have ganglia?

Doctors can diagnose ganglia by examining your hand.

How do doctors treat ganglia?

Most ganglia go away on their own without treatment.

If ganglia are painful or keep growing, doctors can remove the fluid inside it with a needle (called aspiration). Sometimes, doctors inject a medicine (called a corticosteroid suspension) into ganglia to help lessen the pain.

Sometimes, doctors need to remove ganglia surgically. In some cases, ganglia come back after being removed.

Some people believe ganglia can be removed by hitting them with a hard object, such as a book. You shouldn't do this, because you could injure your hand.

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