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Diagnosing & Treating Ganglions

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Often appearing on the front of the ankle or just outside of this area of the foot, a ganglion is a firm, rubbery mass that’s filled with a thick fluid. While ganglions on the foot aren’t usually painful, these growths may result in irritation and distracting pressure when wearing shoes. In some cases, the mass may press on a skin nerve and trigger tingling sensations felt in the toes. Most people with bothersome ganglions respond well to treatment.

How Are Ganglions Diagnosed?

Aside from a visual exam, diagnosis of a ganglion typically includes a review of a patient’s medical history and whether or not there are underlying health issues that may impact tissues in the affected foot, such as diabetes. A physical exam will identify the location of the firm mass that usually indicates a ganglion cyst, which is usually fixed to deeper tissues within the foot.

More common in women, ganglions are sometimes accompanied by the presence of a bone spur in the same area where the mass is located. Additional testing may involve image scans. An X-ray may be done to confirm the growth or identify the location a related bone spur. MRIs and CT scans can provide a more detailed view of the mass. An MRI may be necessary to identify ganglions located deep within foot tissues.

What Treatment Options Are Available?

Smaller ganglions usually don’t require any type of treatment. Needling is a non-surgical treatment option that involves placing a needle into the mass to draw the fluid out. A steroid medication is also applied into the growth. Surgery involves the complete removal of the ganglion.

When Should You See a Podiatrist?

If other foot issues are suspected other than the ganglion cyst, it’s best to see a podiatrist for a thorough evaluation. For instance, bone spurs in the same area as the ganglion often indicate arthritis of the foot. A foot doctor should also be consulted if ganglions are causing persistent foot irritation or pain.

The exact cause of ganglions that may appear on one or both feet isn’t known. It’s been suggested that trauma to issues in the foot may cause joint wear and create an atmosphere where cysts can develop. A flaw in the joint capsule may also be a contributing factor. Wearing comfortable, supportive footwear and taking care of your overall health may help reduce your odds of developing ganglions and other foot issues.

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