Baker’s Cyst – The cause and treatment

Baker’s Cyst is a swelling in the back of the knee which is caused by buildup of joint fluid. It is also known as popliteal cyst. It’s not a tumor or cancer, so it does not grow and spread to other parts of the body.

Its name, Baker’s cyst came from a British surgeon named William Morrant Baker who originally described the condition. The usual cause of Baker’s cyst is any joint swelling or commonly known as arthritis.

Most of the time, osteoarthritis are associated with Baker’s cyst. It can also result from cartilage tears, rheumatoid arthritis and other knee problems. In addition, Baker’s cyst can also occur in children with juvenile arthritis. World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that about 18% of women are affected with osteoarthritis compared to 9.6% men over 60 years old.

Baker’s cyst may be associated with knee pain and tightness behind the knee especially when the knee is flexed or extended. With Baker’s cyst, it is common to find a protrusion or bulge behind the knee. It is noticeable during standing and when compared with normal knee. Plus, it is soft and tender when touched. A ruptured Baker’s cyst can cause swelling of the leg.

Baker’s cyst is not malignant or cancerous and it’s important to have a doctor check the cyst for confirmation and treatment. In emergency cases, like when swelling of the knee becomes painful and excessively big, make sure to call the doctor immediately since the pain may be caused by an infection.

In diagnosing Baker’s cyst, the doctor usually performs or orders the following:

• Physical Examination – The doctor will compare the affected knee with the normal knee.
• Translumination – Light is used to show the fluid-filled growth.
• X-ray – Although it will not show the cyst, it will show other underlying problems like arthritis.
• Anthrogram – Injection of a dye is used followed by imaging.
• Magnetic Resonance Imaging – Magnetic field and pulses are used to look for any meniscal injury.

Even though Baker’s cyst is not a dangerous condition, treatment is also important to minimize other complications. Interventions done to patients with Baker’s cyst include:

• Rest with leg elevation is needed if pain is present.
• Ice pack therapy is also effective in relieving pain and should be applied for 15 minutes at a time.
• Heat application for about 10 to 20 minutes is also helpful in relieving pain, but be cautious not to burn the skin.
• Simple elastic bandage can also offer support.
• Avoid lifting, squatting, climbing, kneeling and running because these may cause pain, but exercises like walking and stretching can alleviate some pain.
• Medications like painkillers can help soothing the pain, but make sure to get a prescription from your doctor.
• Also, when cartilage tears or other internal knee problems are associated, the doctor may perform surgical intervention called arthroscopic surgery in which the doctor removes the swollen tissue.

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