Baker’s Cyst – Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

A Baker’s cyst refers to a condition characterized by the presence of a fluid-filled cyst behind the knee. It results in a swelling and a feeling of tightness posterior of the affected knee. The knee pain can become worse during physical excursions, or when one extends or completely flexes the knee. A Baker’s cyst is also referred to as a popliteal cyst.

A Baker’s cyst is generally caused due to the presence of certain issues in the knee joint, like a cartilage tear or arthritis. These disorders can result in excess production of fluid by the knee, thereby resulting in the formation of a Baker’s cyst.

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Even though a Baker’s cyst can result in discomfort as well as a bulging of knee, treating the pre-existing condition can generally resolve the issue.

Symptoms of Baker’s cyst

Some instances of a Baker’s cyst may not result in pain. It may not even be noticeable. Some of typical signs and symptoms of Baker’s cyst are listed below:

  • Swelling at the posterior of the knee. Occasionally, the leg can also experience swelling.
  • Rigidity or stiffness
  • Pain in the knee
  • The symptoms tend to get worse after a session of physical excursion, or even when an individual has been standing for a prolonged period.

Patients must visit a doctor for diagnosis and treatment whenever they notice a bulge or experience pain behind the knee. It may also be noted that the swelling can be an indication of a far more serious disorder than a Baker’s cyst.

In rare cases, a Baker’s cyst can rupture and release the fluid into the calf area. This can lead to:

  • Swelling
  • Sharp pain across the knee area
  • Occasionally, patients may experience a sensation of water running along the calf or excess redness of the calf

The above listed symptoms signify the presence of a blood clot in one of the veins in the leg. Redness and swelling in the calf region require immediate medical care so as to rule out severe causes of the symptoms.

Causes of Baker’s cyst

Synovial fluid is a lubricating fluid which decreases the friction between the mobile sections of the knee and aids in a smooth swing of the legs.

On occasions, there is excess production of synovial fluid by the knee which leads to deposition of this fluid in the popliteal bursa or the back part of the knee. This causes a Baker’s cyst. This can occur due to the following reasons:

  • An injury to the knee, such as a tear of the cartilage
  • Inflammation or swelling of the knee joint, which can be observed in different kinds of arthritis

Diagnosis of a Baker’s cyst

A Baker’s cyst is generally diagnosed via a physical examination. It may however be noted that some signs and symptoms of a Baker’s cyst can be similar to those elicited by severe disorders like aneurysm, a blood clot, or a tumor. Hence, a physician may also opt for different kinds of noninvasive imaging tests such as MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound.

Treatment of Baker’s cyst

In a majority of cases, a Baker’s cyst tends to vanish in its own without treatment. If the cyst causes severe pain and is very big, then a doctor will recommend the below listed treatment options:

  • Drainage of accumulated fluid: The doctor may use a needle to remove the fluid deposit in the knee joint. The process is known as needle aspiration. It is generally carried out with the help of ultrasound.
  • Medicines: The inflammation may be decreased with a corticosteroid drug injection into the knee. A cortisone injection may ease the pain, but does not rule out the chances of Baker’s cyst recurrence
  • Physical therapy: Swelling and pain may be decreased by using a compression wrap, icing, and crutches. Exercises to strengthen the muscles of the knee as well as gentle range of movements will also aid in easing the symptoms and maintain knee functionality.

In most cases, doctors prefer to treat the underlying condition which has resulted in a Baker’s cyst rather than the cyst itself.

  • A Baker’s cyst which is caused due to the underlying presence of osteoarthritis may remain inflamed even after treatment of arthritis. If the cyst hampers the joint motion or does not resolve, then the doctor may recommend surgical removal of the cyst. Surgery is also advised for those cases of Baker’s cysts which tend to recur even after needle aspiration.
  • In case the doctor diagnoses that the excess manufacture of synovial fluid is caused due to a cartilage tear, then he/she may advise surgical repair or removal of the damaged cartilage.
  • If arthritis is the underlying cause, then the doctor may also advise the below listed options to treat Baker’s cyst.
    • Use of non-prescription pain killer medications
    • Adapt the R.I.C.E principles
    • Reduce the level of physical activities

    Baker’s Cyst Pictures

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