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What can I expect from a Baker's cyst?

Q) I have a Baker's cyst on my right knee because of osteoarthritis. What am I to expect? How long will it last? Will I need a new knee eventually? I’ve already had two hip replacements so I use a crutch when I walk outside.
Rowena (Summer 2017)

A) A Baker's cyst is a swelling that can develop behind the knee. It's filled with synovial fluid, which is the lubricating fluid that's usually found inside the knee joint. It most commonly occurs if there's an underlying problem with your knee, such as osteoarthritis. A Baker’s cyst often causes no symptoms, but some people can experience pain, swelling and tightness behind the knee.

Having a Baker’s cyst doesn’t necessarily mean you'll need a knee replacement. Often it'll get better on its own and the swelling goes away over time. In a small minority of people, they can split open (rupture) and the fluid inside can leak out into the calf muscle, which causes swelling, redness and itching. If anything like this happens you should get it checked out by your GP, as they'll need to make sure that the symptoms are due to the Baker’s cyst and not a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can cause similar symptoms but needs treatment. However, most people with a Baker’s cyst won’t experience this.

Your focus should be on maintaining the health of the knee and managing any other symptoms of osteoarthritis. Keep the joint moving, stay active and try to keep to a healthy weight. If there's a lot of swelling in the knee then sometimes a joint injection to take out the fluid and put in some steroid medication can help.

This answer was provided by Dr Tom Margham for the Summer 2017 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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