How to Safely Drain Toe and Finger Bumps

Medically reviewed by William Truswell, MD

A cyst is a fluid-filled lump. Most cysts are painless and harmless. A myxoid cyst occurs close to the nail bed at the end of the finger or toe. Myxoid cysts are sometimes called digital myxoid cysts, mucous cysts, mucous pseudocysts, or digital mucous.

These cysts are noncancerous (benign) and typically do not cause any pain. While some myxoid cysts require treatment, many will resolve on their own. For some people, myxoid cysts can recur.

This article will cover the risk factors for myxoid cysts, their formation, treatment, and more.

<p>F.J. Jimenez / Getty Images</p>

F.J. Jimenez / Getty Images

Who Gets Myxoid Cysts?

Researchers do not know what exactly causes myxoid cysts to form. They will occur when connective tissue in the affected digit is weakened.

Sometimes, a myxoid cyst is linked to osteoarthritis, a type of wear-and-tear arthritis. This type presents like a ganglion cyst and links back to the joint with a stalk.

What Is a Ganglion Cyst?

A ganglion cyst is a small fluid-filled sac forming over a joint or tendon (connecting muscle to bone). The inside of the cyst is filled with a thick, sticky, clear, and jellylike substance that produces no odor. Ganglion cysts are not cancerous.

Another type of myxoid cyst is focal mucinosis. It is characterized by abnormal deposits of mucus in the skin. This type will present as an isolated, symptomless lump.

A singular lump is not linked to any chronic disease. But, the presence of multiple cysts has been associated with various conditions, including scleromyxedema (a rare severe skin disorder), systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus (an immune system disorder of the skin and joints), and thyroid disease.

Myxoid cysts are considered pseudocysts because they are not lined by epithelial tissue (a protective skin layer). They are formed by fibroblasts (material that builds connective tissue) surrounded by connective tissue.

Anyone can get a myxoid cyst, although they appear to be more common in adults after middle age. People assigned female at birth are more likely to experience a myxoid cyst.

In some cases, trauma to the finger or toe could lead to the formation of a myxoid cyst. While rare, a myxoid cyst can result from repetitive finger motion activities, specifically occupation-related ones.

Myxoid Cyst Formation

Exact information on what causes myxoid cysts to form is unknown, but researchers have information on location, appearance, and symptoms, including pain.

Location: Fingers and Toes

Common locations for myxoid cysts are the fingers and toes, including the thumbs and big toes. You are more likely to experience a myxoid cyst on the fingers than on the toes.

When a cyst develops in the synovial tissue of a finger or toe joint, it is believed to occur because of degeneration or osteoarthritis. Synovial tissue is the specialized connective tissue that lines the inner surfaces of synovial joints and tendon sheaths. The cyst will grow under the skin and attach to the joint with a stalk (a narrow connection).

Not all myxoid cysts result from degeneration—some form when fibroblasts in the connective tissue produce too much mucin (a component of mucus). Even so, they will still appear on the fingers or toes, with the finger joints closest to the nail commonly affected.

Mucous cysts can also develop in the mouth. Oral mucous cysts often appear on the lips or the roof of the mouth.

Appearance: How Cysts Looks

Most people will only have one cyst. However, someone with osteoarthritis may experience multiple myxoid cysts on different fingers.

Myxoid cysts are often the same color as your skin, or they can be transparent or bluish red. The cyst may spread toward the nail bed, causing a depression (groove) along the nail’s length. It might leak a sticky, clear, straw-colored or blood-stained fluid.

A myxoid cyst develops toward the top of the joint. The shape is round or domed, and most cysts will feel firm. Myxoid cysts grow slowly under the skin and will be attached to the joint with a connecting stalk.

While rare, skin ulceration (sores) or infection may occur. Ulceration and infection are considered complications.

Additional complications of a myxoid cyst include:

  • Nail loss

  • Rupture of the cyst

  • Structural changes in the nearby soft tissue

  • Tendon, joint, or bone damage

  • Inflammation (swelling) of bone tissue (osteomyelitis)

A myxoid cyst can develop over weeks or years. One 2017 systemic review found that the average time from when symptoms start until a person seeks treatment is 13 months.

Referred Pain From Myxoid Cyst

Myxoid cysts rarely cause pain or other symptoms. You may have tenderness if the affected joint area experiences a minor trauma, such as bumping a finger or toe into an object. Some people may experience pain associated with arthritis in the affected digit.

Myxoid cysts can sometimes increase in size. Depending on the size of the cyst or if there is a recurrence, a joint deformity might occur, leading to more pain.

The affected joint area might also be painful, red, and inflamed. You should immediately contact a healthcare provider if you experience these symptoms with a myxoid cyst. These are signs of an infection, and you may need an antibiotic.

Nonsurgical Drainage Options

Some myxoid cysts will disappear without any medical treatment. However, many will need medical treatment.

Most myxoid cysts are treated with non-surgical options. This may include:

  • Cryotherapy: Using liquid nitrogen, the cyst is frozen and thawed, reducing its size and preventing further fluid buildup.

  • Needle aspiration: The cyst can be drained by making a puncture. Drainage may need to be done several times before the cyst is completely gone and healed.

  • Steroid or sclerosant injections: Injecting the cysts with steroids or other medicines can help reduce the amount of fluid and help to heal the affected digit.

  • Cauterization: After draining the cyst, the healthcare provider might place silver nitrate in the cyst’s space. After a couple of days, they will remove the remains of the silver nitrate and any cyst parts that have not already fallen out.

With any of these nonsurgical options, the cyst may return.

Will the Cyst Return?

A myxoid cyst can sometimes rupture on its own. This can lead to the fluid in the cyst entering the surrounding tissue. In this case, the cyst will heal and refill in a few weeks, resulting in a recurrence.

According to a 2017 International Journal of Dermatology systemic review, the total cure rate for all non-surgical treatments combined was 83%. Based on this review, surgical treatment options have a much higher success rate and only lead to about a 5% recurrence.

When to Consider Myxoid Cyst Surgery

If you are interested in getting a myxoid cyst removed because of discomfort, recurrence, appearance, or size, discuss with your healthcare provider whether cyst removal surgery is an option for you.

Surgery to remove a myxoid cyst has a 95% success rate. Having the cyst removed surgically could mean that no recurrence happens.

A myxoid cyst removal surgery removes the cyst entirely and closes the affected area with a skin flap. The size of the skin flap will depend on the size of the cyst.

If you have cyst removal surgery, the surgeon will apply compression dressing to the surgical area. You may also need to wear a splint to prevent injury and protect the affected joint.

At-Home Myxoid Cyst Management

If a myxoid cyst is not causing pain or showing signs of infection, you can treat it at home with simple remedies.

One easy way to treat the cyst is to soak the affected finger or toe in warm water daily. Applying local heat to the cyst might also help.

Massaging the cyst or applying firm compression to it daily can also reduce its size and allow it to dissolve on its own. Research shows a 39% chance that compression will heal the cyst. However, it is possible for the cyst to return.

The application of topical steroids might reduce the life of the cyst, but there is little evidence that confirms how helpful or safe this method might be.

Wart cream is a less potent silver nitrate option, which you can find at your local pharmacy. You can use it to treat the cyst. It is good to check with your healthcare provider to confirm this home treatment is safe.

Do Not Drain a Cyst at Home

Never try to drain a cyst at home. Cyst drainage should be done by a healthcare provider in a sterile environment to prevent infections or other complications.


Myxoid cysts are small, harmless, mucus-filled lumps that occur on the fingers or toes near a nail bed. Their cause is unknown, but they are sometimes associated with osteoarthritis. They often affect people in middle age and people assigned female at birth.

There are many treatment options available—both nonsurgical and surgical. Recurrence is possible, but surgery has a high success rate.

Let your healthcare provider know if a myxoid cyst is painful, red, or inflamed. The cyst might be infected, and you will need antibiotic treatment.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.

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