Myxoid cysts, also known as digital mucous cysts, are small, shiny, fluid-filled lumps that usually appear near a joint on the fingers or toes. They are not harmful, but they can sometimes indicate joint inflammation or an underlying condition, such as osteoarthritis.

Other names for a myxoid cyst include a mucous cyst, a digital ganglion cyst, and a digital synovial cyst. A doctor may also call it a pseudocyst. True cysts are surrounded by a capsule, but a myxoid cyst is not.

It is not always clear why myxoid cysts occur, but they are often associated with an underlying health concern, such as osteoarthritis. They are often connected to the lining of a nearby joint and usually appear near a joint on the finger or toe and the nail.

Myxoid cysts are more likely to appear in middle age or later, but they can occur at any age. They are also more common in females than in males.

Myxoid cysts are not usually painful, but they can be tender if they put pressure on other structures, such as nerves. Pain may also be present if myxoid cysts stem from osteoarthritis. In rare cases, they go away without treatment. More often, however, they will persist and a person may wish to consider medical treatment.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes and symptoms of myxoid cysts, as well as available treatment options.

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Repeatedly pressing firmly on the cyst may cause it to disappear. Some research suggests there is a 39% chance that this method will heal the cyst. However, it may not vanish completely, and they often return.

There is no evidence that other home remedies, such as soaking or massaging the fingers and toes, are effective as permanent treatments for myxoid cysts.

The following image shows what a myxoid cyst can look like.

Myxoid cysts grow slowly, usually over several months. The cysts appear as small, smooth bumps, or nodules, on the fingers and can range in size from 5 millimeters to 1 centimeter.

In some cases, multiple cysts may appear on the same finger. Cysts may also appear on several fingers.

Below are some common features of a myxoid cyst:

  • it develops on the top of a joint
  • it is round and dome-shaped
  • it feels firm
  • it grows slowly
  • it is translucent, which means that light can shine through it
  • it is skin-colored
  • it develops under the skin and is attached to the joint by a stalk
  • ulceration and infection may occur in some cases

Myxoid cysts often appear near the last joint of the index or ring finger. Cysts near the base of a fingernail or toenail may sometimes cause nail deformity. Sometimes, they can also grow under the nail, creating a depression in the middle of the nail or causing the nail to split.

Each nodule contains a thick fluid called synovial fluid. This fluid surrounds joints and tendons, protecting them from damage during movement. Sometimes, this sticky fluid leaks out. It may be clear, yellowish, or pinkish.

Myxoid cysts are not usually painful. However, if they result from osteoarthritis, a person may feel pain in the nearby joint. The cyst may also feel tender if a person knocks it.

Occasionally, a cyst may also reduce joint movement.

Some myxoid cysts disappear without intervention, but many need medical treatment.

Several treatment options are available, including both surgical and nonsurgical options. These may improve the appearance of the cyst and prevent it snagging, but the person may still experience pain if the cyst relates to an underlying condition, such as osteoarthritis.

The sections below will cover these in more detail.

Nonsurgical treatments

A doctor may recommend trying a nonsurgical method of removal first.

Options include the following, which can take place in a doctor’s office:

  • pressing repeatedly and firmly on the cyst
  • using liquid nitrogen, or cryotherapy, to freeze and then thaw the cyst, which can reduce its size but does not prevent the fluid from building up again
  • draining the cyst by making a puncture, though this may need to take place several times
  • injecting the cyst with steroids or chemicals to shrink the volume of fluid

With all these options, however, the cyst could grow back.

People should never try to remove or drain a cyst at home. A trained physician needs to carry out the procedure in a sterile environment. This helps prevent infection or other further complications.

Surgery

A 2021 review notes that surgical treatments for permanent removal have a much lower recurrence rate of about 2%. However, this depends on the type of surgery. If the doctor removes the cyst without the stalk, there is a 25–50% chance of recurrence.

During the procedure, a surgeon will:

  1. Apply local anesthesia to the affected area.
  2. Remove the cyst and any tissue connecting it with the joint.
  3. Tie off the stalk.
  4. Scrape away any small bony growths, or bone spurs, from the joint, as this can help prevent a recurrence.
  5. Cover the wound with a flap of skin either from a skin graft or from around the cyst.

There are various approaches to this type of surgery. A person can ask their doctor to explain the options and procedures before the surgery.

After surgery, the doctor will apply a compression dressing, which an individual will wear for 2 weeks. Some people may need to use a splint for around 10 days to immobilize the finger or toe.

After surgery, there may be:

  • pain and swelling in the affected area
  • scarring
  • reduced range of motion of the finger or toe

It is not always clear what causes myxoid cysts, but they seem to stem from the degeneration of connective tissue.

There appear to be two types.

Some are linked to osteoarthritis and happen when the lining of the finger joint grows excessively. Others occur when unusual deposits of mucins (mucopolysaccharides) collect in the skin of the finger or toe.

They are more likely to affect:

  • people in middle age and older
  • females
  • those with osteoarthritis

Myxoid cysts often shrink or go away on their own. However, if they do not, most cases are not painful, and many people can live with them.

People may wish to seek medical advice for a myxoid cyst if it is:

  • affecting their quality of life
  • causing pain or discomfort
  • interfering with routine tasks
  • becoming infected or ulcerated

A doctor will examine the cyst’s appearance and location and ask about any other symptoms. They may also assess for other conditions, such as:

They may recommend a biopsy to rule out any other health conditions.

The doctor will then discuss the range of available treatment options and the benefits and risks of each.

A myxoid cyst is a type of ganglion. A ganglion is a soft tissue tumor that grows near a joint or tendon. A myxoid cyst involves soft tissue and grows near the last joint of a finger or toe and often stems from osteoarthritis.

How do ganglion cysts affect the foot?

Here are some questions people often ask about myxoid cysts.

Are myxoid cysts painful?

Myxoid cysts are not usually painful, but they can be a sign of osteoarthritis, which can be painful. If ulcers develop or infection occurs, these may be painful.

Do they resolve on their own?

Some myxoid cysts go away without treatment, but most will not. They may need medical attention.

Myxoid cysts are small, benign lumps that form on the fingers or toes. They are not cancerous and are not usually painful.

Females, older people, and those with osteoarthritis have a higher risk of developing them.

Treatment options include a range of nonsurgical and surgical approaches. One home remedy is to apply pressure to the cyst regularly. This may help it disappear.

There is no proven way of preventing myxoid cysts, and they often return after treatment.