What Are Ganglions?

Ganglions are fluid-filled sacs that often grow on a joint capsule or tendon. They may appear on the top or side of the foot or ankle, and come in a range of sizes. Ganglions cause irritation, swelling, and pain when they press against nerves.


Repeated irritation can weaken the lining of a joint or tendon and lead to ganglions. Bone spurs (bony outgrowths) may also cause ganglions by irritating the joints and tendons.


Ganglions often form with no symptoms. But if the ganglion puts pressure on the nerves in the overlying skin, it can cause tingling, numbness, or pain. Ganglions sometimes swell and their size can change with different activities or a change in weather.

Physical Exam

During your evaluation, your podiatrist may do a translumination exam, shining a light through the swelling (usually, you can see through a ganglion, but not through a tumor). When your foot is palpated (pressed), a ganglion feels spongy and the fluid moves from side to side.


If a bone spur is suspected, X-rays may be needed. Fluid removal (needle aspiration) may be done to help determine the degree of swelling and to decrease pain. To confirm a ganglion, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be done, which reveals images of soft tissue and bone. Sometimes, special dyes may be injected into the area to show the outline of ganglion.

Will I Need Surgery?

How Are Ganglions Treated?

Ganglions are often difficult to treat without surgery, but nonsurgical methods may be helpful in relieving some of your symptoms.

Non-Surgical Care

If a ganglion is causing ongoing or severe pain, your podiatrist may recommend surgery.

Treatment: Excision

In this procedure, your podiatrist determines the position of the growth, separates it from the surrounding tissues of your foot, and removes it completely.

Follow-up Care

You will have a bandage, which may be changed on your first return visit to your podiatrist. Keep your incision dry until you are instructed otherwise by your podiatrist.

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