Baker’s Cyst Definition
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Baker’s cyst refers to a swelling that contains fluid, results in the formation of a lump and presents itself at the back of the knee. Injury to the cartilage or problems in the knee joint can lead to its occurrence. Baker’s cyst is also known as popliteal cyst in medical terms.
The cyst does not pose any long-term damage and there are very low chances of the cyst rupturing. However, it can be painful and uncomfortable as the individual experiences tightness and restrictions about their movement. There is also a possibility that a ‘bruise’ around the ankle may appear as a result of the fluid flowing down the calf.
Baker’s Cyst Causes
Bones, tendons and cartilages make up the knee along with the synovial fluid which provides lubrication for the frictionless functioning of the joint. There are sacs of tissues called bursae, through which the synovial fluid circulates and a valve-like system at the back of the knee joint that regulates the circulation of the fluid. Sometimes, the bursae contain an excess of the fluid, thus causing them to bulge out and form a lump. It can also be the result of an inflammation of the knee joint.
- Hemophilia: This is a medical condition that is inherited and refers to a problem in the clotting of blood. Internal bleeding could cause severe damage to the joint that could lead to the development of baker’s cyst.
- Osteoarthritis: It is a form of arthritis that is a result of inflammation, break down and wearing out and eventual loss of the cartilage. Under such conditions excess of the synovial fluids can accumulate in the sacs of tissue present at the joint.
- Septic arthritis: A type of arthritis, it is the result of a bacterial infection that causes inflammation in the joints. As a result, the individual experiences pain and discomfort while attempting to move the joint.
- Lupus: It is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s defense mechanism to attack the healthy tissues of the body. It may also involve the destruction of the valve that regulates the circulation of the synovial fluid or the sacs of tissues in the joint, thus causing the growth of baker’s cyst.
- Psoriasis: Pain and inflammation in the joints are signs of psoriasis. Such a degenerative health condition can affect the joint and damage the components of the knee.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: It is an inflammatory form of arthritis that involves pain and selling. The formation of a lump or cyst is likely to occur under such circumstances.
- Reactive arthritis: Another type of arthritis, it is chronic and causes inflammation in the joints, eyes, genitals, urinary and gastrointestinal systems. The disorder causes higher levels of discomfort as it does not limit itself to the joint only, but to the eyes, genitals and other areas as well.
- Injury: Any damage or trauma to the knee joint could cause the growth of baker’s cyst. It is especially common among athletes who undergo strenuous physical training on a regular basis. These people are prone to repeated wear and tear of cartilages, muscle pulls and other joint related issues.
Baker’s Cyst Symptoms
- Pain that may differ in its intensity, ranging from mild to severe
- Bruising on the knee and calf
- Swelling of the knee and calf
- Stiffness or tightness
- Swelling behind the knee worsens when the individual stands
- Rupturing of the cyst
- Restriction of movements
- Inability to flex the knee fully
- Knee may buckle or click
Baker’s Cyst Complications
- Women are more likely to develop baker’s cyst in comparison to men
- Can affect all age groups. However, it commonly occurs in people above the age of 40 years
- Further complication of prior injuries that could result in tearing and damage of the cartilages
- Chances of rupturing of the cysts and the leakage of the synovial fluid into the calf region, which may cause inflammation, severe pain, redness of the calf – a sign of blood clot in a vein, the sensation of water running down the calf, etc.
Baker’s Cyst Diagnosis
- Physical examination of the swelling at the knee joint
- Enquiry about any history of injury or health condition as well as about the lifestyle and daily activities of the individual
- CT Scan
- Arthrogram – imaging of the knee after injecting a contrast dye into the knee
Baker’s Cyst Treatment
Usually, there is no need to treat baker’s cyst as it repairs itself over time. However, they cause immense pain and discomfort in some cases. Following are some ways to treat baker’s cyst:
- Physical therapy: If individual practices some gentle exercises on a regular basis, it can help to increase the strength of the muscles around the knee as well as improve the range of motion of the joint. It helps to create tolerance against the pain and discomfort.
- Aspiration: The doctor uses a needle to draw out the excess fluid from the joint. The doctor may use an ultrasound to help them guide the needle to the correct area. Once the fluid drains the swelling lowers and the individual can move the joint with lesser difficulty.
- Medication: Injecting a particular type of medication like cortisone, that belongs to a class of medication called corticosteroids helps to treat baker’s cyst. The cortisone flows into the cyst and relieves the individual of the pain. However, this treatment does not ensure that the cysts will not reoccur. Over the counter medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen are also useful in lowering the pain and swelling.
- Arthroscopy: In case of a severe injury, damage to the joint or underlying conditions such as arthritis, the cyst may cause further health complications. To avoid such a scenario, doctors may suggest the surgical removal of the cyst.
Changes in Lifestyle
- Individual must rest adequately to allow the body heal itself and prevent chances of the cyst reoccurring
- Using ice compressions is an effective way to treat the redness, swelling, and pain
- Can use a crutch or cane for support; it helps to reduce the pressure on the knee
- Elevate the legs and try to hold the position especially at night to prevent flow of the synovial fluid to the calf
Baker’s Cyst Pictures: