Dear Foot Blogger Chick,
After a great fun filled weekend, I woke up and found a lump on my foot. I swear that it was not there before this morning. I tried to put on my shoes and I could not wear my regular work shoes because it rubs on the spot.
What is it? Could this be really bad?
Worried and shoe-less
Since I cannot see your foot, it is impossible to give you a diagnosis but I can give you some information.
It sounds like you may have a ganglion cyst. Ganglion cysts can form in several spots on the body. Usually they are found at joints like the top of the wrist, the side of the wrist, the knee, the ankle or top of the foot.
What is a ganglion cyst?
Most importantly, a ganglion cyst is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor. They can grow quickly and can also recede quickly. They are most often found in women between the ages of 20-40. The cyst is a fluid filled sac that will usually sit between tendons and joints.
There are a lot of bones in the foot. In fact one-quarter of the bones in your body are in your feet. You have ligaments to hold those bones in place. Ligaments are tissues that allow for the flexibility and support for the foot. Surrounding the ligaments is a thick fluid that is called synovial fluid. The synovial fluid is the fluid inside a ganglion cyst.
Why did this form?
I would love to tell you why you would have gotten a ganglion cyst but I can’t. It isn’t a matter of keeping it a secret – researchers are just not sure why a ganglion cyst forms. It is thought that they my develop from an injury or too much stress on a joint.
How do I get rid of it?
That is the major question, isn’t it? Especially if it is painful or it gets irritated by your shoes.
As rapidly as the cysts can seem to form, they can disappear. Yes, it can happen that you will suddenly see that it has disappeared. Now, if this happens, there is a pretty good chance that it will come back. In this case, I would take the Scarlett O’Hara approach and worry about it another day.
If it is bothering you, it is time for you to go see your friendly local podiatrist and have the cyst checked out. Usually, the doctor can tell upon examination that it is a ganglion cyst. If there is any question, the doctor may numb your foot and take a sample of the fluid with a needle (this is called a needle aspiration). The fluid is then examined under a microscope to make sure it is synovial fluid.
The doctor may also order imaging tests (MRI or ultrasound) to see if the cyst is sitting on a nerve and make sure that the bump is not an artery or blood vessel.
If you are in pain and uncomfortable, the doctor may use a needle to remove all the fluid and then inject a steroid medication. There is not a guarantee that the cyst will not come back.
If you have severe pain, the doctor may suggest surgery to remove the cyst. The success rate for surgery is higher than for needle aspiration but there is still some risk of reoccurrence even with surgery.
Two odd but interesting things about ganglions
1. If you shine a light on one side of a ganglion cyst, you can usually see through the cyst. (great party trick!)
2. Back in the olden days, if someone had a ganglion, the largest book in the house was used to smash the cyst. Since the heaviest book in the house was usually the Bible, this treatment was called “Bible Therapy”. This method of reducing a ganglion is not recommended due to the damage that can be done to surrounding parts of your body that also get smashed in the process.
Having a ganglion is not a medical emergency. If you are in pain, you should go see your friendly local podiatrist and get some help. If you are not in pain or discomfort, you can go when the cyst becomes bothersome or embarrassing.
The Foot Blogger Chick
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