Digital myxoid cyst

What are the aims of this leaflet?

This leaflet has been written to help you understand more about digital myxoid cysts - what they are, what causes them, what can be done about them and where you can find out more information about them.

What is a digital myxoid cyst?

A digital myxoid cyst (sometimes called a mucous cyst) is a benign swelling that occurs on the fingers or, sometimes, the toes. Digital myxoid cysts are not contagious and are not a form of skin cancer.

The term cyst is from the Greek kystis meaning a bag or pouch; myxoid and mucoid refer to the jelly-like contents. Digital derives from the Latin digitus, meaning finger or toe.

Digital myxoid cysts occur most frequently in people in their sixties.

What causes a digital myxoid cyst?

The exact cause is not known. The cyst is often connected to the lining of the finger or toenail joint, and is usually located between the joint and the nail.

Is a digital myxoid cyst hereditary?

Digital myxoid cysts are not hereditary.

What does a digital myxoid cyst look like?

Digital myxoid cysts are skin-coloured, reddish or slightly translucent (letting light shine through). If a cyst is overlying the area where the nail is formed, it may cause a groove to occur along the length of the nail, which can vary in width. Occasionally, slightly sticky, clear, straw-coloured or blood-stained contents may leak out of the cyst. Usually, there is just one cyst, but some people may develop more than one, on different fingers.

What are the symptoms of a digital myxoid cyst?

A mucoid cyst may be tender, especially when knocked. Occasionally there may also be symptoms of arthritis with pain, stiffness and deformity of the joint adjacent to the cyst. Digital myxoid cysts may become infected. If a cyst suddenly becomes larger, painful, red and hot, you should see your doctor as these symptoms may indicate infection and an antibiotic may be prescribed.

How is a digital myxoid cyst diagnosed?

A digital myxoid cyst is usually easily recognised as a small lump overlying the end finger- or toe-joint, with or without a groove in the adjacent fingernail. The occasional discharge of clear, slightly sticky material from the cyst is also characteristic. If the cyst arises under the nail, the diagnosis is more difficult, and then a scan or taking a sample (biopsy) from the cyst with a local anaesthetic may be needed.

Can a digital myxoid cyst be cured?

Several different treatment options exist for digital myxoid cysts, but they may recur after treatment. They may disappear spontaneously.

How can a digital myxoid cyst be treated?

If a digital myxoid cyst does not cause any symptoms, no treatment is required. If treatment is considered necessary, there are a number of options.

Treatments usually not requiring a local anaesthetic:

  • Repeated drainage of the cyst fluid using a sterile needle or blade.
  • Freezing of the cyst with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy).

Treatments requiring a local anaesthetic:

  • Scraping the cyst off (curettage).
  • Finding the point of leakage of fluid from the joint by injection of dye into the joint, and then closing that leak (usually performed by orthopaedic surgeons).
  • Cutting the cyst away.
  • Cauterising the cyst.

Where can I get more information about digital myxoid cysts? (includes photographs) (includes photographs)
For details of source materials used please contact the Clinical Standards Unit (

This leaflet aims to provide accurate information about the subject and is a consensus of the views held by representatives of the British Association of Dermatologists: individual patient circumstances may differ, which might alter both the advice and course of therapy given to you by your doctor.

This leaflet has been assessed for readability by the British Association of Dermatologists’ Patient Information Lay Review Panel


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