Finding a new lump on your body can be worrisome, and it’s important to know whether or not it’s something serious. People living with lupus sometimes develop a type of lump called a ganglion cyst. These fluid-filled lumps are usually harmless and painless and often appear near joints or tendons of hands and wrists.
“Does anyone else suffer from this in the hands or wrist?” one MyLupusTeam member asked. Another replied, “Yes, I had a ganglion cyst on my right wrist. I am told it’s common in lupus.”
In this article, we will explain what ganglion cysts are, how they’re related to lupus, and what you can do about them.
A ganglion cyst is a harmless lump that typically appears near joints or tendons. Ganglion cysts are often found in the wrists, hands, or fingers, but can also appear on the ankles and feet.
Ganglion cysts are filled with a thick, jelly-like fluid that is very similar to the fluid in your joints. These cysts are often round or oval and can vary in size, ranging from small, like a pea, to larger than an inch in diameter.
Usually, ganglion cysts are harmless and painless but, in some cases, may require treatment.
Ganglion cysts can cause specific symptoms that vary depending on their size, location, and whether they’re close to nerves or blood vessels. While many ganglion cysts don’t cause any problems and can go unnoticed, some people may experience the following symptoms:
It's important to know that ganglion cysts can sometimes look like other conditions, such as tumors or cysts from different causes. So, if you notice a lump or experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, it's a good idea to see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis.
Ganglion cysts aren’t directly caused by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) — the most common type of lupus — but they may be related in other ways.
Lupus mainly affects your immune system, causing it to mistakenly attack healthy tissues and organs. Despite this, lupus does not specifically target or cause ganglion cysts. However, it’s worth noting that people with lupus often develop other types of joint-related conditions, such as arthritis or Sjögren’s syndrome.
Although lupus may not directly cause ganglion cysts, it’s not uncommon for people living with lupus to develop these nodules. In one study, researchers evaluated the wrist joints of 26 people with SLE and found that 3.8 percent had ganglia (the plural of ganglion cysts) present. However, the exact prevalence of such cysts in people with lupus is unknown, and more research is needed.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes ganglion cysts. Health experts believe they develop when synovial fluid leaks out or bulges from nearby joints or tendons.
Ganglion cysts might show up or grow larger due to overuse of a joint or minor injuries to the area. Anyone can develop ganglion cysts, but according to Cleveland Clinic, they’re three times more common in men than in women and tend to appear between the ages of 20 and 50.
Some of the other risk factors for developing ganglion cysts may include injury to the joint or autoimmune conditions such as SLE or rheumatoid arthritis.
By combining the following methods, doctors can typically diagnose a ganglion cyst:
About 58 percent of ganglion cysts will go away on their own over time. If your cyst is small, painless, and doesn't interfere with your ability to carry out daily activities, your doctor might suggest keeping an eye on it without doing anything. However, if your cyst is causing pain or interfering with your daily activities, your doctor may recommend treatment.
There are a few treatment options for ganglion cysts:
You may have heard stories of people popping ganglion cysts by hitting them with heavy objects, like a book. Health experts recommend against this approach, as it can lead to infections. It’s important to consult a rheumatology professional to get an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment for a ganglion cyst.
If you have a ganglion cyst and are worried that it is related to lupus, it’s best to talk with your rheumatologist or other health care professionals. They are your best resource for figuring out the root cause of your symptoms and developing a treatment plan to cope with them that won’t interfere with your existing lupus treatments.
On MyLupusTeam — the social network for people with lupus and their loved ones — more than 223,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lupus.
Have you had a ganglion cyst? What was your experience getting a diagnosis and having it treated? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.