Ganglion Cyst On The Wrist

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Dr Poh Seng Yew



MMED (Ortho)



What Is A Ganglion Cyst On the Wrist

A ganglion cyst is a benign, fluid-filled lump found near joints or tendons. Its appearance can resemble a water balloon on a stalk. These cysts are typically filled with a jelly-like substance and are most commonly observed on the dorsal or back side of the wrist.

While they can occur at any age, they are more prevalent in individuals between 20 and 40 years old and are more common in women than men. The exact cause of ganglion cysts remains unclear, but they are thought to arise from the joint capsule or tendon sheath, usually due to joint or tendon irritation or mechanical changes.


Ganglion cysts on the wrist are characterised by their visible appearance and location. Symptoms that accompany this may include:

  • Palpable Lump: The most common symptom is a visible or palpable lump on the wrist. The size may vary and can change, sometimes increasing with repetitive wrist use.
  • Discomfort or Pain: While many ganglion cysts are painless, some may cause discomfort, especially when the cyst presses against a nerve or if it interferes with joint movement.
  • Cyst That Is Fluctuating In Size: The cyst can fluctuate in size, often becoming more prominent with increased wrist activity.
  • Tingling or Numbness: In some cases, if the cyst is pressing on a nerve, there may be a tingling sensation or numbness in the affected hand or fingers.

The condition may not always exhibit symptoms, and in some cases, they may resolve spontaneously without treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of ganglion cysts on the wrist is not definitively known, but several factors are considered to contribute to their development.

  • Repeated Stress On Joint Or Tendon
    Repeated stress on the wrist joint or tendons may lead to cyst formation, explaining why these cysts are common in individuals who perform repetitive wrist motions.
  • Joint or Tendon Injury
    A history of injury to the wrist joint or tendons may predispose an individual to develop a ganglion cyst.
  • Age and Gender
    These cysts are most frequently seen in individuals between the ages of 20 and 40. They are more common in women.
  • Osteoarthritis
    People with wear-and-tear arthritis in the wrist, particularly those with bone spurs, are more likely to develop ganglion cysts.


Diagnosing a ganglion cyst on the wrist typically involves the following steps:

  • Physical Examination: The doctor will examine the cyst, noting its size, shape, and location. They may also apply pressure to assess tenderness or discomfort.
  • Light Transmittance Test: A light may be shone through the cyst (transillumination) to determine if it is fluid-filled, a characteristic feature of ganglion cysts.
  • Imaging Tests: In some cases, imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI may be used to rule out other conditions, like tumours or bone abnormalities, and to confirm the diagnosis.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Non-surgical approaches are often the first line of treatment for a ganglion cyst on the wrist, particularly if the cyst is not causing pain or interference with activities.

Wrist Braces or Splints

In cases where a ganglion cyst causes discomfort or affects wrist mobility, your orthopaedic specialist may recommend using a wrist brace or splint. This treatment aims to stabilise the wrist, limiting movement that could exacerbate the cyst. By immobilising the wrist, the brace or splint can help alleviate pain and potentially reduce the cyst’s size over time.

Aspiration Procedure

For cysts that are particularly bothersome or persistent, an aspiration procedure may be performed. This involves numbing the area around the cyst and then using a needle to drain the fluid from it. Aspiration can provide immediate relief from symptoms such as pain and pressure. This procedure does not remove the root of the cyst, and there is a possibility of recurrence.

Surgical Treatment Options

In cases where non-surgical treatments are ineffective or the ganglion cyst recurs frequently, surgical intervention may be considered.

Excision Surgery

This procedure involves the complete removal of the cyst along with part of the involved joint capsule or tendon sheath. It is usually performed under local or general anaesthesia. A small incision is made over the site of the cyst, the cyst is extracted, and the incision is closed with stitches. This method has a lower recurrence rate compared to aspiration.

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Prevention Strategies

While it is challenging to prevent the formation of a ganglion cyst due to its unclear causes, certain strategies can reduce the risk or prevent exacerbation.

  • Reducing Strain On The Wrist - Making ergonomic changes to reduce strain on the wrists during repetitive activities can help lower the risk of developing cysts.
  • Sufficient Rest Periods For The Wrist - Incorporating regular breaks into activities that strain the wrist can minimise the chances of cyst formation.
  • Using Wrist Support - Using wrist supports during activities that put pressure on the wrist may help prevent cysts from developing or worsening.

Dr Poh Seng Yew



MMED (Ortho)


With over 20 years of experience, Dr Poh Seng Yew is an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in hip, knee, shoulder and elbow surgery, sports medicine, and trauma surgery.

  • Former Director of Sports Service, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Singapore General Hospital
  • Clinical Hip and Sports Medicine Fellow, Orthopädische Chirurgie München (OCM), Germany
  • Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, FRCSEd (Orthopaedic Surgery)
  • Master of Medicine (Orthopaedic Surgery), National University of Singapore
  • Member, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (MRCSEd)
  • Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), National University of Singapore



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    Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
    38 Irrawaddy Road, #08-62/63
    Singapore 329563

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Is Ganglion Cyst Surgery Painful?

    Ganglion cyst removal surgery is usually performed under local or general anaesthesia, minimising pain during the procedure. Post-surgery, some discomfort or pain is normal and can be managed with prescribed pain relief medications.

    What is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of a Ganglion Cyst?

    The quickest method for removing a ganglion cyst is often aspiration, where a needle is used to drain the fluid. The choice of treatment should be based on the cyst’s size, symptoms, and the individual’s overall health. Consult our ganglion cyst specialist for personalised advice.

    What Happens if a Ganglion Cyst Bursts?

    If a ganglion cyst bursts, it typically leads to a rapid decrease in size and relief from any pain caused by pressure. The fluid gets absorbed into the surrounding tissues. There is a risk of inflammation or infection, and medical advice should be sought if this occurs.

    Should I Press on a Ganglion Cyst?

    A ganglion cyst should not be pressed or popped. Such actions can cause pain, and increase the risk of infection. If the cyst is bothersome, consult our ganglion cyst specialist for appropriate treatment options.

    Are There Any Complications Associated with Ganglion Cysts?

    Complications are rare but can include persistent discomfort, reduced range of motion in the wrist, and potential recurrence after treatment. If you’re experiencing persistent symptoms, reach out to our ganglion cyst specialist today for a personalised treatment plan.