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Danielle asked...

I have a bone that sticks out on my hand. Is it a ganglion cyst?

I have a lump on the top of my hand – like a bone that sticks out. I was wondering what it was and if this is common?

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The answer

The lump on your hand could be a few things:

  • A ganglion cyst. This is a swelling, filled with fluid, that forms around your joints or tendons. They can occur in any joint but most commonly appear on the wrist, hand or fingers. In fact, more than 50% of lumps and bumps in the hand are ganglion cysts. The cysts can range in size and are smooth.
  • Carpal boss. This is an overgrowth of bone on the back of the hand that is similar to a bone spur. It is not a tumour but can be misdiagnosed as a ganglion cyst. These are solid, and unable to be moved.

I would suggest you consult your doctor so he can diagnose the lump on your hand which may involve further investigations such as an X ray, MRI scan or blood tests. Pending on the findings, they will advise you on any treatment (if required).

Ganglion cysts

Ganglions are usually harmless and can be left untreated if they are not causing you any pain or discomfort. They sometimes disappear by themselves, although this can take a while.

If you are in pain or can’t move your hand, you can have your ganglion cyst treated. There are two main treatments:

  • Aspiration – the cyst is drained with a needle and syringe. This is usually the first port of call for treatment as it is a fairly simple procedure. Sometimes the cyst can return in which case you may need surgery.
  • Surgery to remove the cyst. This can be open or keyhole, and is usually done under local anaesthetic (it can also be performed under general, though, it depends where the cyst is). There are more complications and recovery needs for surgery so it is a good idea to chat to your doctor about all your options.

Carpal boss

It is not known exactly what causes a carpal boss, although some people think it can be due to injury or repetitive use. Sometimes a carpal boss is painful, especially when you move the wrist up or down, but sometimes it isn’t.

Again, a carpal boss is harmless so if it isn’t causing you any pain or discomfort you can leave it untreated. If, however, it is causing you issues treatment options include:

  • Resting the wrist and using a splint to support it and stop you moving it
  • Applying ice to the joint
  • Painkillers, if these are safe for you to take
  • Steroid injections into the boss
  • Surgery to remove the boss. This is a last option if other treatments have failed and it is causing problems or you’re in a lot of pain. It can take a while to recover from this (sometimes weeks or months).

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

Further Reading

Ganglions - AXA PPP healthcare

The best ways to look after your joints - AXA PPP healthcare

How to prevent repetitive strain injury - AXA PPP healthcare

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