Ultrasound’s Role in Identifying Lumps on the Wrist and Hand
If you’ve found a lump on your wrist or hand, a trip to visit a physician is in order. Early identification (1) by hand or wrist ultrasound and follow-up treatment gives you the best chance of recovery, no matter what they turn out to be.
What Conditions Could the Lumps on My Hand or Wrist Be?
In most cases, lumps in the hand and wrists are usually benign (2). Cancerous conditions, such as soft tissue, bone, or cartilage malignancies, are rare.
Let’s explore some of the most common issues that give rise to lumps in the wrist or hands.
Most wrist and hand lumps turn out to be benign ganglion cysts. Ganglion cysts develop when the lining inside your small joints develops a pouch, allowing fluids to leak inside.
The same situation might occur in the sheath that covers your tendons or knuckle joints. In that case, doctors call the abnormality a ‘mucous cyst’.
Giant Cell Tumours
Although the name sounds scary, giant cell tumours are benign growths that develop on your tendons’ sheath, lining, or the soft tissue inside the joint. They’re usually painful but easy to remove. Unfortunately, they often return, so your doctor will probably recommend that you return periodically for rechecks.
Inclusion cysts occur when you’ve suffered a penetrating wound in one of your fingers or hands. The force of the instrument that causes the wound drives surface cells into your hand or finger’s deep layers.
These cells grow inside the healed wound, expanding in size over several months or years, causing abnormal but benign growths.
Dupuytren disease (3) comes from an imbalance in your body’s ability to control healing and scarring. It causes firm, often painful nodules to form under or attached to your skin.
Genetics play a role in its development. So, if you have a family history of the condition, it pays to have your doctor check for early signs during routine check-ups.
Like a bone spur on your hand, a carpal boss (4) is a hard, bone-like lump, but it develops on your wrist. It’s a type of osteoarthritis that grows out of the bone on the back of your hand.
Researchers believe that a carpal boss develops over time from repetitive stress on your wrist or a traumatic injury. Usually, it’s painless. However, some patients feel some pain while moving their affected wrist.
An enchondroma on your hand is a benign tumour (5) in the small bones of your hand. This type of tumour can also occur in other bones, usually on your arms and legs. Physicians believe that enchondromas occur when bone cells change into cartilage.
Although rare, an enchondroma can also become cancerous – so keeping close track of its development is essential, especially since they usually present without pain. Additionally, since this condition weakens your bones by partially turning them into cartilage, fractures are also a risk for enchondroma patients.
Lipomas are one of the most frequently occurring benign tumours in the human body. However, they’re relatively rare (6) in the wrist or hand. These soft-tissue growths are more common in older individuals (7) and those with a family history of the condition.
Lipomas of the hand usually form on your palm, close to your thumb. However, they can occur elsewhere on your hand or wrist. Formed from encapsulated fatty tissue, these soft tumours rarely cause pain but can impair movement and affect your hand’s appearance.
Warts and Calluses
Another type of commonly occurring benign growths, warts develop from exposure to the human papillomavirus (8), usually from direct skin contact or sharing towels or washcloths with an infected person. They are easily treatable with over-the-counter medications but often can resolve on their own.
Although warts themselves are benign, one type of cancer, squamous cell carcinoma (9), mimics some of the characteristics of a wart. If your wart begins to bleed or crust, do seek medical advice. As with all malignancies, early diagnosis and treatment is essential for a positive outcome.
Calluses, on the other hand, occur from repetitive friction or mild injuries. These dry, rough growths are usually not painful but can be somewhat tender upon pressure.
Most often, calluses resolve without treatment. Using gloves while working with your hands or exfoliation usually solves the problem.
Arthritis-Induced Hand and Wrist Abnormalities
Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as gout, can cause various types of lumps, bumps, and swelling in your hands. Heberden’s nodes and Bouchard’s nodes (10), small bony growths that occur on the fingers, can cause swelling, pain, and loss of motion.
People with rheumatoid arthritis often develop nodules and swelling in the tissues surrounding their joints. Gout flareups (11), too, can cause swelling, along with painful, chalky deposits in the tissues of the hand.
Tumours can also develop in your blood vessels or the lymphatic system. Most are benign; however, other abnormalities, like aneurysms, angiosarcomas, and lymphangiosarcomas (12), are more serious and warrant prompt diagnosis and treatment.
A trigger finger occurs when the tendon that moves your finger cannot glide through the sheath that covers it, usually due to a node on the tendon. When that happens, your finger sticks in a bent position as if pulling a trigger. Risk factors for trigger finger include:
- Being female and over 50 years of age
- Low thyroid function
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Having a hobby or occupation that involves repetitive use of your hand or fingers
Treatment of this benign yet disabling condition often includes splints, steroid injections, or even surgery.
Cancer in the Wrists or Hands
Although rare, cancers can occur in the wrists and hands. Usually, cancerous tumours in the hands and wrists result from cancer cells that have spread from tumours in other parts of the body.
Most of the cancers that originate in the wrist or hands are skin malignancies, such as squamous cell carcinomas, melanomas, or basal cell carcinomas. However, some malignant tumours – sarcomas – do form in the cartilage or bones of the hand.
Unless you can identify a wrist or hand lump as something harmless, it’s always a good bet to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to rule out more serious conditions, such as cancer. One of the most dependable diagnostic tools for hand and wrist abnormalities is an ultrasound scan.
What Kinds of Lumps in the Hand and Wrist Can Doctors Detect with an Ultrasound Scan?
Ultrasound scans can detect a variety of hand and wrist issues. As it does with lumps in the breast, an ultrasound examination provides detailed images of the lumps in your hand or wrist, giving your physician a better understanding of their cause.
A hand or wrist scan can detect many of the conditions that cause lumps in the wrist and hands, such as the following:
- Joint, tendon, muscle, and ligament abnormalities
- Pain in the fingers, hands, or wrists
- Range of movement issues
- Inflammation and fluid build-up
- Tumours and other masses
Depending on the results of your wrist or hand scan, your treatment team can diagnose and treat your condition or schedule further tests if they need more information. These tests could include CT scans, X-rays, or a biopsy.
What Happens During a Hand or Wrist Ultrasound Scan?
Since a wrist or hand ultrasound examination is a non-invasive procedure, you won’t need much preparation. Wearing a short-sleeved shirt, blouse, or sweater can protect your clothing from the gel the ultrasound specialist will apply to your hand or wrist before the exam. If you wear jewellery, remove it before the scan.
After you arrive in the exam room, your specialist will ask you to place your wrist or hand on the exam table. Then, they will apply a gel that makes it easier for the ultrasound probe to move over your skin and capture a clear picture of the affected area.
Then, your specialist will move the ultrasound probe over your hand or wrist to generate images. The images will appear on a screen, giving them an accurate picture of your condition.
At the Harley Street Ultrasound Group, your doctor will review the results with you immediately after the exam. In fact, your doctor will usually be able to diagnose your condition on the same visit. If you need follow-up visits for treatment, your doctor will advise you to schedule your next appointment with the office staff.
If you have a suspicious lump on your wrist or hand, don’t waste time worrying about it. Schedule a hand or wrist ultrasound with our caring team today.