What is a Foot Cyst or a Toe Cyst?

A Foot Cyst or a Toe Cyst is a benign medical condition in which fluid-filled masses build up in the soft tissues which are attached to the joint capsules of the foot or the toe. The fluid present in the masses are thick, sticky, colorless, and looks like a jelly. This fluid resembles the synovial cyst which is present in the body which reduces the friction between the joints and tendons. These cysts on foot or on toe do not have a regular shape or size and they are mobile in nature. Foot cysts or toe cysts are usually located at the joints or the tendons but in rare cases they may also occur in the bones. These types of cysts on foot or toe tend to develop with time and over a period of years. Foot cysts or toe cysts are benign and tend to go away on their own but have a tendency to recur every now and then. Usually, foot cysts or toe cysts completely go away within a few years' time. Cysts on foot or toe usually do not result in any pain but they may cause some damage to the adjoining structures. Most of these cysts on foot or toe resolve on their own with time and at maximum they last for a year or so. There is no age barrier for Foot Cyst or a Toe Cyst and these cysts can occur in anyone but studies indicate that these cysts on foot or toe are found more in females than in males.

Foot Cyst or Toe Cyst

What Causes a Foot Cyst or a Toe Cyst?

There is no identifiable cause for the development of a Foot Cyst or a Toe Cyst but the most accepted cause is any sort of trauma to the foot or the toe either due to overuse of the foot or due to any direct trauma or an injury to the foot due to a fall. As a result of a trauma there is inflammation of the tissues which then gradually develops into a cyst on foot or toe.

What Are The Symptoms of Foot Cysts or a Toe Cyst?

The classic symptom of a Foot Cyst or a Toe Cyst is a lump on the foot or the toe usually near the joint. This lump will be irregular in shape and variable in size. Some of the other symptoms of a Foot Cyst or a Toe Cyst are:

  • Burning sensation in the affected region
  • Severe pain in and around the cyst on foot or toe
  • Diminished foot and ankle motion due to the cyst on foot or toe
  • Irritation of skin above the cyst on foot or toe
  • Inability to wear proper footwear due to irritation and pain.

How is Foot Cyst or a Toe Cyst Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose a cyst on Foot or a Toe Cyst, the treating physician will first begin by taking a detailed history to look for any history of trauma to the foot or the toe. The physician will also inquire as to the duration of the lump on foot. Next the physician will perform a physical examination where he or she will assess the lump on the foot to look for tenderness. The fluid present inside the foot cyst or toe cyst will be aspirated and sent for laboratory analysis. Apart from this, x-rays may also be performed of the affected area to look for any sort of damage to the surrounding structures. In order to confirm the diagnosis an ultrasound of the foot is done. In case if these studies are inconclusive, then an MRI of the foot may also be performed.

How is Foot Cyst or Toe Cyst Treated?

Once a diagnosis of a Foot Cyst or a Toe Cyst is confirmed then the physician formulates a treatment plan to get rid of the cyst on foot or toe in a speedy way. The treatment method is dependent on the size and location of the cyst on the foot and the symptoms experienced by the patient. A wait and watch approach is chosen for cysts that are quite small and do not cause any pain. The physician may recommend some type of treatment in case the cyst on foot or the toe cyst results in limitation of motion or severe pain in the foot or prohibits you from wearing footwear. The most effective way of treating a Foot Cyst or a Toe Cyst is to remove the fluid filled in the cyst completely. This method is called aspiration. In this procedure, the area of the cyst on foot is first anesthetized with local anesthesia and a needle is inserted into the cyst and the fluid is removed in its entirety. Then a steroid is injected to prevent recurrence of the foot cyst or toe cyst. Aspiration by far is the most effective way of treating Foot Cyst or Toe cyst but such cyst tend to recur every now and then and may need aspiration quite frequently. In case if aspiration does not work in removing the cyst of foot or toe then the physician may recommend a surgery to remove the foot cyst or toe cyst. Whether this surgery is done as an inpatient or an outpatient depends on the size and location of the foot cyst or toe cyst and may require suturing and use of splint for immobilization till the wound heals. If a surgery is performed to remove the foot cyst or toe cyst then the patient may have to be in bed rest for some time and may not be able to their normal activities. Surgery has a higher success rate than the aspiration procedure in stopping recurrence of the foot cyst or toe cyst, although like all surgical procedures there are inherent risks of infection or scar tissue formation. There are also chances of infection. Home remedies seem to have little effect on ganglion cysts. Application of heat may sometimes be useful but not always in the case of foot cyst or toe cyst. The worst thing to do is to burst the cyst open as it may cause the cyst to get infected resulting in more complications. Some of the risks of a Foot Cyst or Toe Cyst are:

  • Infection at the site of the cyst on foot
  • Adverse reaction to steroids at the time of aspiration of the foot cyst or toe cyst
  • Frequent recurrence of cyst on foot or on toe
  • Frequent need for aspiration
  • Scar formation in case of surgical removal of the cyst
  • Limited range of motion of the foot and ankle due to cyst on foot or toe
  • Inherent risk of infection or scar tissue formation postsurgery.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 29, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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