My lovely little lump
January 23, 2012 5:19 AM   Subscribe

I have self-diagnosed the lump on the inside of my left wrist as a ganglion cyst. My GP's on a vacation for two weeks. This isn't urgent, is it? I can wait till he gets back, right guys?

The knobble feels hard to the touch and looks precisely like picture B here.

It's been there for a week now (I know, I know) but hasn't grown in that time. It's about the size of a peanut and doesn't protrude too much. It doesn't hurt unless I press quite hard on it. My whole wrist is a bit tender though, with a sharper pain if I use the hand e.g. to open a jar or lift something heavier (which I try to avoid).

(Actually, now and then my entire arm aches a little, but I have a patched humerus & elbow from an accident many years ago with the metal wires and plates still in place, which tends to occasionally hurt anyway. So it's possibly just that, only I'm paying more attention to it now because of to the lump.)

Getting an appointment somewhere else that my insurance would cover for is time-consuming and annoying. Also, I've had unpleasant experiences with doctors here in the Netherlands, but my current GP is wonderful. From all I've heard, ganglions aren't considered urgent and often require no treatment at all anyway. So... I'm not risking too much by waiting 2 weeks for my GP to get back, am I? I know YANAD/YANMD, but is there something I should know or watch out for?
posted by sively to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
Best answer: You should be fine to wait. I had a ganglion cyst removed last year that was under/in the tendon sheath on my wrist and completely impeding hand movement (couldn't bend my wrist forward/backward without the tendon sheath moving over the cyst, which was incredibly painful)...and even though it was effectively barring me from doing anything with my left hand, it was still a few months before I had surgery on it. I went in about a month after realizing what it was (thanks to a question here, actually), and was given a cortisone shot to try to get it to go away. A few months later, after it started to shrink but grew back again, I got a second shot; needed surgery a month later but the doctor stressed that this was a very rare occurrence and that 9 times out of 10, surgery is completely unnecessary. Draining the cyst is another option other than shots/surgery.

Just a warning...whatever you do, do NOT try to follow the advice of slamming a book or heavy object onto the cyst. As it was explained to me, you are popping it open and forcing all the fluid inside back into your joints, possibly causing bruising within your hand, and there's a good chance it will just come back.
posted by kro at 5:56 AM on January 23, 2012

You're right that it's nothing urgent. I think you'll be fine waiting.

I had a ganglion cyst on the back of my wrist for several years. When it first showed up I went to the doctor, who told me the only treatment was to aspirate the fluid, which is sometimes a temporary fix. It finally went away after I fell, landing on my hand and bursting the cyst! Gross. I know someone else whose cyst burst when she was using a can opener.
posted by apricot at 5:57 AM on January 23, 2012

I have had such a cyst for years, and it rarely causes me problems. A friend who's an orthopedic surgeon told me they're known as "Bible cysts" because the old-fashioned fix was to whack 'em with a bible to burst them, as apricot just described. I had a hand surgeon look at mine, and he said it's not a problem unless it's bothering me.
posted by jon1270 at 6:10 AM on January 23, 2012

I asked a doctor about mine once, and he said, quite uncomfortably, "Please don't make me smack it!" Mine usually went away due to my own klutziness. The only way it really affects me now is that it hurts to do push ups and some yoga poses. All of my mom's sisters have them in the same place, and only one opted to have hers surgically removed.
posted by Maarika at 6:30 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had mine drained. Which was kind of cool if you're into seeing weird glycerine like liquids pulled out of your body.

Then it came back, but a lot smaller. So no regular pushups for me. Otherwise I just have an extra lump in my wrist.
posted by theichibun at 6:39 AM on January 23, 2012

Best answer: IANAD, YMMV, but my GP has told me to just leave it alone. Any intervention carries some small risk, and the cyst is probably just gonna come back anyway. Mine has become such a nuisance I can't wear a wristwatch comfortably any more. Which has it advantages: "You're late!" "Ganglion cyst!"
posted by zomg at 7:23 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

My experience was pretty much the same as everyone else's - back in 2000 I had one, and even after my initial appointment there was still about a 2-3 week wait until I had it surgically removed.

Then, ten years later the same thing happened, and I had another two-three week wait for it to be removed (and it ended up being removed about 4 days before the 10 year anniversary of the initial removal).
posted by Lucinda at 7:23 AM on January 23, 2012

Mine has come and gone for over 10 years with no intervention (except for the couple of times I fell hard on the ice and popped it.) I mentioned it to a doctor once, who said I could remove it if I found it really problematic.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:52 AM on January 23, 2012

I've had one for fifteen years. Had it drained, it came right back. It hurt on and off for the first year or so (mostly before the drainage, if I recall) but then stopped hurting altogether and I mostly forget it's there.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:58 AM on January 23, 2012

I had one removed on my right wrist something like 30 years ago. Never came back. Now I have one on my left wrist, which I'll likely eventually have excised as well. There is no rush.
posted by kjs3 at 9:02 AM on January 23, 2012

Best answer: I had surgery to correct two cysts that came back after being drained. It probably took four years to get rid of them so no worries about waiting.

The only thing that worries me is you say it's 'hard to the touch'. My doctor (and this was years ago so I may be wrong) said that cysts should be slightly soft. It shouldn't feel like you're touching bone, for instance. If it's hard-hard, you might want that looked at sooner.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:08 AM on January 23, 2012

I have one in the knuckle of my middle finger. My doctor confirmed that's what it was and then said that he didn't want to drain it because they'll usually come back. I found similar advice on the web about smacking it (or not) with something heavy, and felt too squeamish about that. However, someone else said that rubbing it regularly (with pressure, but not to the painful point) would help it go away. I've been doing that over the past couple months and it has definitely gotten smaller. You might try that--can't hurt and may help.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:28 AM on January 23, 2012

I had a really tiny one on my wrist and my mom told me that the cure was to hit it with a Bible. I did, and it ruptured and went away.

Of course, any firm heavy thing will do, but I imagine the good book will exorcise any demons that may be living in your wrist too.
posted by custard heart at 9:30 AM on January 23, 2012

Best answer: The only thing that worries me is you say it's 'hard to the touch'.

Yeah, I'm not a doctor, but my cyst was sort of soft and rubbery. Did your GP leave a referent to a back-up doctor? Even just someone you could call?

(I had a ganglion cyst, no big deal, appeared when I was on the NuvaRing, disappeared when I went off it. My health care practitioner said, "meh, cyst, meh, let it be.")
posted by endless_forms at 11:31 AM on January 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice and information, everyone. I'm marking a few best answers, basically the ones I found the most informative, but really I'm just surprised (and maybe a little relieved) to find out these things are so common and undramatic. Anyway, the little lump is definitely as hard as all the bony knobs, which is making me doubt my self-diagnosing powers a bit. I've decided that if it gets more painful or something else changes, I'll try to find a way to talk to a doctor earlier.
posted by sively at 11:58 AM on January 23, 2012

Mine was hard - pretty much as hard as bone in my of course unqualified opinion.

Doctor said they could drain it, but there was a 75% or something chance it'd come back.

It dissolved itself over the next ~2 years.
posted by trialex at 1:04 PM on January 23, 2012

Mine was also very hard. Cortisone shots didn't help much, so after having it for a couple of years (woo recurring tendonitis!) I had it surgically removed. They were able to get it and its root, and it has never come back. I was able to rehabilitate the wrist, too, which had been down to about 30% range of motion.

My brother had one that was bigger than mine, but it went away on its own.
posted by bookdragoness at 1:10 PM on January 23, 2012

Best answer: I have one right now, it comes and goes. Back in college I always got it during high-stress times or when I had to do a lot of typing. And it hurt, a lot. Nowadays it's usually not there unless I pick up something really heavy or moving furniture or something. It's hard as a bone and doesn't hurt anymore. It usually fades away on its own after a couple of weeks, until it decides to make a comeback.

One time I was hurting so bad I went to see a surgeon and was scheduled for surgery in "three weeks" but in the middle of those weeks of waiting I took a vacation to the beach and I guess all the rest and relaxation was better than surgery cause when I came back to see the Dr, he was like "well, there's nothing there to operate on anymore!" After that I thought I'd never really think about surgery anymore, I just deal with it with Advil when it hurts, or forget about it when it doesn't.

FWIW, my aunt had hers removed like three times and it always came back. Seems like surgery is much worse than just dealing with the cyst in the first place.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:33 PM on January 23, 2012

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