What is a Ganglion Cyst?
Ganglion cysts are small, fluid-filled sacs that grow beneath the skin. They are non-cancerous, so they do not present any serious danger. However, if you find any kind of lump growing beneath or on your skin, you must have it diagnosed as a ganglion cyst by a medical professional before the risk of cancer can be eliminated completely.
Ganglion cysts can form anywhere on the body, but it is most common to find them on the hands, wrists, feet and ankles – and they tend to grow along the tendons or around the joints. They vary in size, as some cysts are so small that they are hardly visible, whilst others can grow to a diameter of 2.5 cm.
What Causes a Ganglion Cyst to Grow?
Ganglion cysts typically appear after an injury. Alternatively, they can form in response to an underlying health condition, such as arthritis.
The joints and tendons are lubricated by a thick, viscous substance called synovial fluid. Injuries or conditions such as arthritis can force a joint or tendon out of place, which – in turn – causes the synovial fluid which coats them to leak. The leaked fluid then collects together under the skin, creating a little fluid-filled bump, called a ganglion cyst.
As a result, patients who suffer from osteoarthritis, or who have suffered an injury in the past, are at greater risk of developing a ganglion cyst.
How is a Ganglion Cyst Diagnosed?
In most cases, a doctor will be able to diagnose a lump as a ganglion cyst simply by examining it by sight. However, it is sometimes necessary to perform a scan or a procedure known as aspiration (which is when the lump is punctured using a needle, and a syringe is then used to extract the internal fluid) to determine whether the bump is a ganglion cyst.
If you discover any kind of abnormal lump or growth on your body, the best course of action is to arrange an appointment with your doctor, who can then ensure that it is diagnosed appropriately and rule out the risk of cancer.
Is it Necessary to Have a Ganglion Cyst Removed?
As ganglion cysts are benign and harmless, it is rarely imperative for the lump to be removed. The bumps are usually painless, and many patients choose to simply ignore them.
However, when a ganglion cyst appears near a nerve, it can begin to press on it as it grows, causing feelings of numbness, tingling, muscle weakness or pain. Similarly, if the ganglion cyst grows in an unfortunate position, it can restrict the range of movement in a nearby joint. In these instances, it is advisable to arrange for the lump to be treated.
Of course, many patients also choose to have a ganglion cyst removed for cosmetic reasons, as they can be unsightly or embarrassing, especially if they grow in a very visible location, such as the face.
What is the Relationship Between Ganglion Cysts and Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is an essential, fat-soluble vitamin which helps the body to absorb and maintain calcium and phosphate. These nutrients fortify the bones and teeth and keep the muscles healthy. As a result, a Vitamin D deficiency can lead to muscle weakness and conditions which cause bone pain, such as osteomalacia.
The government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that 1 in 6 adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. As a result, the NHS advises adults in the UK to take a daily vitamin D supplement throughout autumn and winter. This is because Vitamin D is obtained through sun exposure, and – as there is not enough sunshine in the UK between the months of September and April to achieve healthy levels of Vitamin D – supplementation is necessary.
As we discussed above, ganglion cysts form when joints and tendons are moved out of place, which often happens as a result of an injury or a health condition. When the bones and muscles are weak, the risk of joints being pushed out of place is higher. Consequently, a vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of an injury to the joints and tendons, which – in turn – increases the risk of ganglion cysts forming.
This means that patients can decrease their chances of having a ganglion cyst by ensuring that they have healthy levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream.
How Many Forms of Vitamin D Are There?
There are two main dietary forms of vitamin D: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D2 comes from plant sources, such as mushrooms (which are grown in UV light) and fortified foods. Meanwhile, vitamin D3 is derived from sunlight, as well as animal-sourced foods, such as fish oil, oily fish, butter, liver and egg yolks. Both forms of vitamin D can also be consumed via dietary supplements.
Can Vitamin D Help You To Heal After a Ganglion Cyst is Surgically Removed?
Vitamin D is essential for healing: it boosts the immune system and helps to prevent injury by strengthening your bones and muscles.
When a ganglion cyst is surgically removed, a scalpel is used to cut the lump out of the skin. This creates a small hole in the area where the cyst was growing, which is then sealed closed using stitches. These stitches will remain in place for roughly two weeks as the skin heals.
Having a healthy level of vitamin D in the body will help to ensure that the skin heals as quickly and healthily as possible after this procedure, whilst also helping to prevent the formation of more ganglion cysts in the future.
How Can I Increase My Vitamin D Levels?
To build strong bones, maintain healthy teeth, and improve your overall health, it is essential that you are consuming a healthy level of vitamin D. Here are some easy and effective ways to boost the level of vitamin D in your bloodstream:
Spend time in the Sunshine
One of the best ways to increase the level of vitamin D in your body is to spend some time outside in bright, sunny weather. This is because the skin produces vitamin D when it is exposed to UV radiation from the sun.
However, the amount of vitamin D that the body can produce from sunlight varies from person to person. Younger people will produce more vitamin D than older people, for example. Similarly, people with darker skin will produce less of the vitamin than those with lighter skin. This is because darker skin contains more of a compound called melanin, which can impede the production of vitamin D.
Nevertheless, everyone should ensure that they are getting some exposure to the sun every day to boost the levels of vitamin D in the body.
Include Vitamin D-boosting Superfoods in your Diet
Dietary supplements should always be considered an addition to – rather than a replacement for – a healthy diet. This means that it’s important to include foods which are rich in vitamin D into the meals that you regularly eat.
Fatty fish – such as salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel or anchovies – are an excellent source of vitamin D. Red meat, liver and egg yolks (especially those which come from eggs laid by free-range chickens) are also great natural sources of vitamin D.
Vegans can increase the amount of vitamin D in their diets by incorporating mushrooms into their meals. Like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when they are exposed to UV light from the sun, so they are another excellent natural source of the nutrient.
Finally, eating fortified foods – such as breakfast cereals, tofu, or orange juice – can boost the amount of vitamin D in your diet. Fortification is the process of adding micronutrients to food, and so these foods often have vitamin D added to them as they are being made, making them a good source of the nutrient.
Invest in a UV Lamp
UV lamps are designed to emit ultraviolet radiation, just as the sun does. Consequently, when the light from a UV lamp meets the skin, the body will begin to produce its own vitamin D – just as it does when it is exposed to the sun. This makes UV lamps effective sources of vitamin D for people who live in areas, such as the UK, where there is inadequate sunlight at certain times of the year.
However, patients are warned to limit their exposure to a UV lamp to a maximum of 15 minutes at a time, as excessive exposure can burn the skin and lead to other health problems.
Take Vitamin D Supplements
Finally, one of the best ways to ensure that you are absorbing a healthy level of vitamin D is to take supplements. As we mentioned above, the government recommends that adults in the UK take a daily vitamin D supplement throughout autumn and winter.
As with any dietary supplements, though, it is important to ensure that the vitamin D tablets that you are taking are of a high quality and have been examined by an independent body.