Imagine a doctor holding a heavy Bible-like book and whacking it on a patient's foot to burst a ganglion cyst. Historically, this barbaric action once was the mainstream treatment for those "bubble like” growths under the skin and it is known today as “The Bible method”.
Medicine has come a long way and even though we could still consider that a valid approach, we do not recommend it because it’s pretty painful and, well, barbaric. Although I often like to bring this up jokingly when discussing treatment options for ganglion cysts.
Ganglion cysts may not always be painful, but depending on the size and location, these can make wearing shoes very uncomfortable or almost impossible. They are jelly-like fluid-filled sacs that grow underneath the skin, and are connected to the tissue that protects the tendon. If it is superficial enough, you can actually see clear fluid inside the cyst.
Often found in the wrists or in many different areas of the foot, the formation of these soft lumps under the skin is associated with minor injury, however it can also be caused by arthritis or a bunion. Sometimes, ganglion cysts can spontaneously appear without any specific reason.
There are numerous other reasons to have a soft tissue cyst or growth on the foot, and a visit to a podiatrist is the best way to diagnose a ganglion cyst. It will not show up on an X-ray, but here at Central Massachusetts Podiatry we have a diagnostic ultrasound machine which can help us easily identify and confirm the type of cyst.
Ganglion cysts are generally benign and are non-invasive, so sometimes monitoring the cyst’s size and appearance is all that is necessary. If it does become painful or difficult to wear shoes, the cyst can be drained with a small needle poke to aspirate the fluid. I often inject a steroid into the cyst to help shrink it.
For recurring cysts, surgical removal might be necessary. However even with surgery, there is still a small chance of recurrence, which is important to understand.
If you notice any abnormal growth on your foot or ankle, call 509-757-4003 or text 508-625-7775 for an appointment with one of our specialists, in Worcester and Westborough.