Baker’s Cyst basically is a fluid-filled cyst which causes bulging & a feeling of tightness behind the knee. This pain usually gets worse when the knee is fully flexed or extended or when the patient is active. Baker’s cyst is also known as the Popliteal Cyst. It is usually resulting from problems with the knee joint like cartilage tear or arthritis, as both these conditions can cause the knee to produce too much fluid that can lead to formation of Baker’s cyst. Although Baker’s cysts cause swelling which can make people uncomfortable, treatment of underlying problems will usually be able to provide relief.
Causes of Baker’s Cyst
Lubricating fluid, which helps the leg swing smoothly while reducing friction between moving parts of the knee, is known as the synovial fluid. However, sometimes too much synovial fluid is produced by the knee & which results in buildup of fluid in areas at the back of knee known as the popliteal bursa. Known as the Baker’s cyst, this is usually found to happen because of the following reasons.
- Knee injuries like cartilage tear
- Inflammation of knee joint like those which occur with various types of arthritis
Signs & Symptoms of Baker’s Cyst
Baker’s cyst in some cases, cause no knee pain & may even go unnoticed. However, when they cause signs & symptoms, these include the following:
- Knee pain
- Swelling behind knee
- Sometimes, swelling in leg
- Stiffness & inability to fully flex knees
Symptoms in some cases may worsen after the patient has been active or when they have been standing for long periods of time. It is however time to consult a doctor when swelling behind the knee & knee pain are bothersome. Although it is unlikely, bulge behind the knee may sometimes also be a sign of a more serious condition than a fluid-filled Baker’s cyst.
Risks & Complications Associated with Baker’s Cyst
It is quite rare that the Baker’s cyst would burst & synovial fluid would leak into the calf region so as to cause the following complications.
- Sharp knee pain
- Swelling in calf
- Redness of calf sometimes
- Feeling of water running down calf sometimes
These signs & symptoms of complications can closely resemble those of blood clots in veins in leg. In case patient is having redness & swelling of calf, they will need to undergo prompt medical evaluation in order to rule out more serious causes of symptoms.
Treatment & Medications for Baker’s Cyst Including Knee Surgery
Quite often Baker’s cysts disappear on its own. However, in case the cyst is large in size & is causing knee pain, doctors often recommend the following treatments.
- Medications – Doctors may decide to inject corticosteroid medications like cortisone into the knee joint in order to reduce inflammation. This would usually relieve knee pain but may not be able to prevent recurrence of cyst.
- Knee Surgery – Knee surgery usually involves fluid drainage. Doctors may decide to drain fluid buildup from the knee joint with help of a needle. This is known as needle aspiration & is most often performed under guidance of ultrasound.
- Physical Therapy – This treatment involves crutches, icing & compression wraps which may help in reducing knee pain & swelling. Gentle range-of-motion along with strengthening exercises for muscles around the knee joint may also be helpful in reducing symptoms while preserving knee function at the same time.
Doctors may treat the underlying cause of the Baker’s cyst wherever possible. In case doctors determine cartilage tear as the cause of overproduction of synovial fluid, they may recommend knee surgery in order to remove or repair torn cartilage. However, Baker’s cyst which is associated with osteoarthritis is usually found to improve with treatment of arthritis & knee surgery is rarely needed in such cases.
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