Ganglion cysts of the foot are benign, fluid-filled, soft-tissue masses that attach to tendon sheaths or joint capsules. The fluid tends to be thick, sticky, clear, and jelly-like. Most ganglion cysts appear on the wrist, but a significant number also occur in the foot, usually the top.
The majority of them disappear within two years and, although not generally painful in themselves, ganglion cysts may cause symptoms due to their proximity to other structures. They can be found in any age group, and women are three times more likely than men to suffer from them.
The exact cause of ganglion cysts is still unknown. The most widely accepted theory involves trauma to the affected area, which may result from a single, direct incident or from chronic overuse. This results in inflammation of the associated connective tissues, which then degenerate or liquefy into “ganglionic jelly.” The remaining connective tissue forms the cystic capsule to enclose this fluid, thus creating the ganglion cyst.
The first symptom is usually a lump on the foot. The lump is most commonly on the top of the foot, but it can be located near any joint or tendon, and it may vary in size. Other symptoms may include:
- Burning sensation
- Limited motion
- Skin irritation above the ganglion
- Pain when wearing shoes
Treatment depends on symptoms. If there is no pain and the cyst is small, no treatment may be necessary. If there is pain, limitation of motion, or difficulty wearing shoes, however, some treatment may be required. The simplest form of treatment is aspiration (or drainage) of the ganglion. If this doesn’t work, surgery may be performed to excise the cyst. Home remedies seem to have little effect on ganglion cysts. Heat may reduce the size of the cyst, but only temporarily. Many home remedies can cause more harm than good, such as “Bible Therapy,” which involves taking a heavy object such as a book and smashing the cyst. Needless to say, such therapy can create complications.