What's a baker's cyst?

Angela Davis

Sunday, February 18, 2018

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A baker's Cyst, also known as a popliteal cyst, is a benign fluid-filled swelling at the back of the knee that causes a bulge in that region.

There is often a feeling of tightness which becomes more uncomfortable when the patient is active.

Though it is called a “cyst”, it is often not a true cyst as it has an opening to the synovial sac which lies in the knee joint. On rare occasions, it will pinch off from the sac to form a true cyst.

What causes a baker's cyst?

Baker's cysts can occur in children or adults. In adults it is almost always due to arthritis, a cartilage tear or an injury. Children tend not to have an underlying pathology so it would be due to an injury.

What are the symptoms?

In some cases, a baker's cyst will have no symptoms at all and the patient will not even be aware that they have one. General symptoms tend to be pain around the knee area, swelling behind the knee and an inability to fully flex the knee.

On occasion, the swelling tears open and the fluid leaks into the calf muscle causing pain in this area.

How is a baker's cyst diagnosed?

A clinical examination and history is usually carried out by your doctor or podiatrist. An magnetic resonance imaging or ultrasound may be needed for a firm diagnosis.

How is it treated?

Firstly, we need to find the underlying cause and treat it accordingly. If the cyst is not painful, it can be monitored but not necessarily treated as they will often resolve by themselves. However, if the cyst is large and painful, there are three courses of treatment.

• Rest: The patient should reduce the range of motion of the knee with physical aids such as a crutch. The area should be iced three times a day for 10 minutes.

A compression wrap will help reduce the inflammation and the range of motion. Avoid activities like squatting, kneeling, lifting heavy weights, climbing, and running. Gentle exercise should be carried out to strengthen the knee joint and its surrounding structures. It is also wise to elevate the limb as much as possible, especially at night.

• A corticosteroid injection to the local area will help to reduce the inflammation and the pain.

• The fluid in the cyst can be drained. This is done with a syringe and is called aspiration.

Angela Davis BSc (Hons) DPodM MChS is a podiatrist with offices in Montego Bay (293- 7119), Mandeville (962-2100), Ocho Rios (974-6339), Kingston (978-8392), and Savanna-la-Mar (955-3154). She is a member of the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom.

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