There are many lumps and bumps that you may encounter on your body, some go away on their own, some don't and may be painful and need medical attention. On the foot, there are lumps and bumps that may be due to bony issues or deformities, and others that may be due to soft tissue. Sometimes, you may not know unless you have it checked out by your podiatrist where an Xray can determine if it is bony or not. If it is due to soft tissue, one of the most common causes is a ganglion cyst.
A ganglion cysts is actually an overgrowth of benign tissue that comes off part of a tendon, which is the part of the muscle that attaches to the bone. It is filled with a substance that can range from liquidy fluid to a gelatenous, thicker fluid. If the cyst has been there for a long time, the fluid may have solidified even more so that it is almost solid and feels very hard to touch.
Why does it occur? - Many times this occurs in areas of increased friction, such as where the tendon crosses a joint, and sometimes the cyst may contain a stalk that is originates in deep tissue or deep in a joint. The friction can be caused by trauma, or repetive trauma, such as shoe gear. For example, in our practice, we see it often on the fron tof the ankle where a boot or gym shoe may be too tight causing friction in the area.
How do I know it is a cyst and not something else? - In order for a proper diagnosis, X-rays are taken to make sure the lump is truly soft tissue and not a bone spur, or maybe a combination of both. Many times your doctor will take a sample, or aspirate, the fluid and send it to be analyzed in a lab to make sure it is indeed a ganglion cysts and not something else.
How is it treated? - If it is nonpainful, many times you and your doctor will monitor the cyst and make sure it is not growing in size. If it is growing in size or it is painful, then it can be drained or if it recurs, it can be surgically removed. You may undergo advanced imaging such as ultrasound or MRI to make sure of the size and depth of the lesions in order to prepare for surgery. With a confirmed diagnosis, the cyst can be injected with local steroid to try to decrease its size. If you choose no treatment, then the area may be able to be accomodated with padding. You and your doctor will come up with a treatment plan for your specific case.