What is a mucous cyst?

A mucous cyst is an “outpouching” of the last joint of the finger, which is called the distal interphalangeal joint. It can cause joint swelling and pain, and most often occurs in conjunction with arthritis. A mucous cyst can also cause nailbed deformities and can get infected if the skin becomes thin and breaks open. If there is a groove or ridge in the nail, bacteria can get underneath it and cause an infection there as well.

Who gets mucous cysts?

Many individuals with arthritis of the hand get mucous cysts. They most commonly occur in women over the age of 45, because women get hand arthritis more frequently and severely than men.

What is the treatment for a mucous cyst?

Mucous cysts are generally treated surgically. The procedure, which can be done under local anesthesia, requires that half of the joint be exposed, and arthritic spurs removed. Sometimes, a flap of adjacent skin is rotated over the area of bad skin. Unfortunately, the cysts can recur; if they do, and pain is present, sometimes a fusion of the last joint of the finger is required.

After surgery, we generally send patients to a hand therapist one time. Patients should not bend the end of the finger postoperatively as this will cause stress on the wound.  The therapist can make a splint holding the end of the finger still until the skin is healed, which takes roughly two to three weeks.

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