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Orthopedic diseases 2023

Baker's cyst: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

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Baker's cyst: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment
Baker's cyst: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

Baker's cyst, also known as popliteal fossa cyst, is a lump that arises at the back of the knee due to fluid accumulation in the joint, causing pain and stiffness, which worsens when straightening the leg or during physical activity, for example.

Usually, Baker's cyst is the result of other knee problems, such as arthritis, meniscus injury or cartilage wear and, therefore, does not require specific treatment, disappearing when the disease that causes it is controlled. The most common is that the doctor recommends rest, physiotherapy and anti-inflammatories to control the symptoms.

Although rare, Baker's cyst can rupture and, in these cases, causes severe knee pain that can radiate to the calf, which may need to be treated in the hospital with surgery.

Main symptoms

In many cases, Baker's cyst does not cause any type of obvious symptom and, therefore, it is common for it to be identified only in routine exams performed by an orthopedist or physical therapist.

However, when symptoms do arise, they may include:

  • Swelling behind the knee, like a lump;
  • Knee pain;
  • Tingling in the leg;
  • Stiffness when moving the knee.

Whenever symptoms of knee problems appear, it is recommended to consult an orthopedist to perform tests and diagnose the problem, initiating the most appropriate treatment.

Although it is rare, when a Baker's cyst ruptures it tends to cause a very strong and sudden pain that affects the back of the knee and can radiate to the calf. In this case, you should immediately go to the hospital.

How to confirm the diagnosis

Baker's cyst can be diagnosed when there is a swelling at the back of the knee and a history of another condition that can cause the cyst to appear. However, it is also common for the doctor to order some tests, especially knee ultrasound or MRI, to confirm the diagnosis.

Knee X-ray usually may not show any changes that help in the diagnosis of Baker's cyst, but it may also be ordered when the doctor suspects another associated condition or to assess the evolution of another knee problem, such as osteoarthritis, for example.

What causes Baker's cyst

Baker's cyst can be caused by an accident or a direct blow to the knee, however, it is more common to arise as a consequence of another knee problem, mainly:

  • Osteoarthritis;
  • Inflammatory arthritis;
  • Drop.

Due to its causes, this type of cyst is more common in women and tends to appear after the age of 40, although it can appear at any age, including children.

How the treatment is done

Treatment for Baker's cyst should be guided by an orthopedist or a physical therapist and usually starts with joint rest and specific treatment for the problem causing the cyst to appear.

Depending on the problem causing the cyst, your doctor may recommend different types of treatment. For example, in case of arthritis, the orthopedist may recommend the use of anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids.

In order to relieve the pain caused by the cyst, the doctor may also recommend:

  • Use of compression stockings: help reduce knee swelling, relieving pain when moving the joint;
  • Application of ice packs: to the back of the knee for 10 to 20 minutes helps reduce swelling and pain;
  • Anti-inflammatory and pain relievers prescribed by your doctor, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen;
  • Physiotherapy sessions: uses exercises that help strengthen the knee muscles, avoiding excessive pressure on the joint and decreasing pain.

In more severe cases, where the pain is very severe or the Baker's cyst is very large, it may be necessary to drain the cyst with a needle or resort to surgery to remove the cyst.

Signs of improvement or worsening

Signs of improvement in a Baker's cyst can take up to a few months to appear, depending on the problem causing it, and include decreased pain, reduced swelling, and greater ease in moving the knee.

The signs of worsening are mainly related to the rupture of the Baker's cyst, which can cause intense pain in the calf, swelling of the site and difficulty moving the leg.

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