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If a strange lump appears on your foot, it could be a ganglion cyst. Fortunately, this is a benign lump, so it won’t lead to more serious problems.

However, depending on its location the cyst may press on a nerve, and this can cause pain and numbness. Here are the things to look out for.

What Are Ganglion Cysts?

These are fluid-filled sacs that vary in size from quite small (pea-size) to around an inch in diameter. In some cases, the lump may grow bigger or shrink to nothing altogether (although it can come back later).

What Are the Symptoms?

Ganglion cysts commonly pop up on ankles and wrists, although they can be found anywhere on the hands and feet. They form on joints and tendons and may feel hard or springy to touch – it just depends on the location.

These are the main symptoms:

  • An obvious lump that may or may not be painful.
  • An uncomfortable burning or tingling sensation if it’s pressing on a nerve.
  • A constant dull ache if it’s pressing into a tendon or joint.
  • Mobility issues if the joint is badly impeded.
  • Pain or discomfort when wearing shoes as the lump prevents a proper fit (which will soon give rise to additional problems such as blisters if left untreated).

What Causes Ganglion Cysts and Who Is Susceptible?

The precise reason is unknown but there are several theories.

  • People who suffer from recurrent joint injury often go on to develop ganglion cysts. It’s thought that joint trauma causes a breakdown of tissues, which encourages small cysts to form. These grow and merge to become one larger cyst.
  • A cyst can also form due to defects in the tendons or joints. In this case, joint tissue develops a bulge that fills with fluid, and a cyst is formed. It can also be a genetic issue for some sufferers.
  • The wear and tear caused by osteoarthritis also encourages ganglion cysts to form for some people.
  • Anyone can have a ganglion cyst, but it’s often seen in women aged 20 – 40 years. The reason for this is unknown.

How to Treat a Ganglion Cyst

The first step should be a visit to your podiatrist for a thorough assessment. If the cyst is carefully pressed it will move easily under the skin. Sometimes an ultrasound or fluid sample may be suggested for a more in-depth analysis, but this is only in extreme and rare cases.

The cyst may disappear of its own accord, but there are several ways to make the situation more comfortable in the meantime.

  • If the cyst is painless, it’s not necessary to do anything but it’s wise to check in with your podiatrist to monitor the situation in case it gets worse.
  • If it is painful, over-the-counter medication may help but always check with the podiatrist or pharmacist before taking anything for the first time.
  • A warm compress eases pain and stimulates blood flow and this may encourage the fluid to drain.
  • Change your footwear to prevent rubbing on the painful area or use an insole or pad to cushion the cyst.
  • If the problems persist it may be necessary to drain the cyst but happily, this is a simple procedure.

In extreme cases, surgical removal of the cyst may be the best approach. Your podiatrist can advise you if this is necessary and refer you to the right person.

Ganglion Cysts

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