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Definition

What is a Baker’s cyst?

A Baker’s cyst is a fluid-filled cyst that causes a bulge and a feeling of tightness behind your knee. The pain can get worse when you fully flex or extend your knee or when you’re active.

A Baker’s cyst, also called a popliteal cyst, is usually the result of a problem with your knee joint, such as arthritis or a cartilage tear. Both conditions can cause your knee to produce too much fluid, which can lead to a Baker’s cyst.

Although a Baker’s cyst may cause swelling and make you uncomfortable, treating the probable underlying problem usually provides relief

How common are Baker’s cysts?

Baker’s cysts are quite common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of a Baker’s cyst?

In some cases, a Baker’s cyst causes no pain, and you may not notice it. If you do have signs and symptoms, they might include:

  • Swelling behind your knee, and sometimes in your leg
  • Knee pain
  • Stiffness and inability to fully flex the knee

Your symptoms may be worse after you’ve been active or if you’ve been standing for a long time.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Pain and swelling behind your knee
  • A bulge behind your knee, which may be a sign of a condition more serious than a fluid-filled cyst.

Causes

What causes Baker’s cysts?

A lubricating fluid called synovial fluid helps your leg swing smoothly and reduces friction between the moving parts of your knee.

But sometimes the knee produces too much synovial fluid, resulting in buildup of fluid in an area on the back of your knee (popliteal bursa), causing a Baker’s cyst. This can happen because of:

  • Inflammation of the knee joint, such as occurs with various types of arthritis
  • A knee injury, such as a cartilage tear

Risk factors

What increases my risk for a Baker’s cyst?

There are many risk factors for Baker’s cyst, such as:

  • Adults over the age of 40 years
  • Females are more likely to get this condition than males
  • Arthritis of the knee joint
  • A torn meniscus
  • Knee joint injury

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is a Baker’s cyst diagnosed?

A Baker’s cyst can often be diagnosed with a physical exam. However, because some of the signs and symptoms of a Baker’s cyst mimic those of more-serious conditions, such as a blood clot, aneurysm or tumor, your doctor may order noninvasive imaging tests, including:

  • Complete evaluation of medical history (recent) along with a thorough physical examination of the knee joint. The feel and appearance of the cyst is also examined
  • Imaging studies, such as a knee x-ray and CT scan, can present a detailed picture of the knee joint

 

Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.

How is a Baker’s cyst treated?

Sometimes a Baker’s cyst will disappear on its own.  However, if the cyst is large and causes pain, your doctor may recommend the following treatments:

  • Your doctor may inject a corticosteroid medication, such as cortisone, into your knee to reduce inflammation. This may relieve pain, but it doesn’t always prevent recurrence of the cyst.
  • Fluid drainage. Your doctor may drain the fluid from the knee joint using a needle. This is called needle aspiration and is often performed under ultrasound guidance.
  • Physical therapy. Icing, a compression wrap and crutches may help reduce pain and swelling. Gentle range-of-motion and strengthening exercises for the muscles around your knee also may help to reduce your symptoms and preserve knee function.

If possible, doctors treat the underlying cause of the cyst. If your doctor determines that a cartilage tear is causing the overproduction of synovial fluid, he or she may recommend surgery to remove or repair the torn cartilage.

Baker’s cysts associated with osteoarthritis usually improve with treatment of the arthritis. Surgical intervention is rarely needed.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage a Baker’s cyst?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with a Baker’s cyst:

  • Follow the R.I.C.E. principles. These letters stand for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Rest your leg. Ice your knee. Compress your knee with a wrap, sleeve or brace. And elevate your leg when possible, especially at night.
  • Try over-the-counter pain-relieving medications. Drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve, others), acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and aspirin can help relieve pain. Follow the dosing instructions on the package. Don’t take more than the recommend dosage.
  • Reduce your physical activity. Doing so will reduce irritation of your knee joint. Your doctor can offer you guidance on how long you need to reduce your activity levels, and he or she may be able to suggest alternative forms of exercise you can do in the meantime.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: July 24, 2017 | Last Modified: July 24, 2017

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