Oral care

Mucous retention cyst-Causes, Symptoms, Types & Treatment

Mucous retention cyst is also known with the names like mucocele and mucous cyst. Mucous retention cyst can occur in many regions of the body like the maxillary sinuses, sphenoid sinuses, lips, vocal cords, tonsils, salivary glands, etc.

The appearance of these mucous retention cysts on very vital parts of the body makes the person suffering from it worry a lot. The majority of times these mucous retention cysts are benign and non-cancerous. But, still, they might be really painful and trouble us a lot.

What is mucous retention cyst?

mucous retention cyst

Do you know what is a mucous retention cyst? We all know that we need proper lubrication in the respiratory passages, nose, mouth and throat. This lubrication is provided b the mucous which is produced by the mucous glands in these regions.

These glands release the mucous through elongated structures called the ducts. Sometimes, these ducts might get blocked due to various reasons. This leads to the formation of mucous retention cyst. It is a cyst-like or sac-like structure filled with mucus.

These cysts are generally symptomless. But, occasionally they are painful. Apart from the mucous retention cyst which appears outside like the ones on lips, the other types of mucoceles are found accidentally on radiologic imaging like CT scans or MRI scans done for some other purpose.

Mucous retention cyst types:

There are many different regions where this mucous retention cyst can develop. Based on the regions where it develops, it is further classified into subtypes.

1. Mucous retention cyst in salivary gland:

Saliva is secreted by the salivary glands through the salivary ducts. If these ducts are injured due to any reason, the saliva gets accumulated within the salivary glands, forms cyst-like structures called mucous retention cysts.

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These cysts are lined with epithelium and filled with mucous. Sometimes, they are also known as Sialocyst. Mostly they are seen in the Parotid glands.


These cysts are seen in people between the ages of 30 years and 50 years. They are generally painless. They have a bluish appearance. The mucous retention cyst in salivary gland has a well-defined border.


There is no need to worry about it much. It can be removed with a simple surgical excision. But, care must be taken not to injure the surrounding structures while excising the mucous retention cyst. After the removal of the cyst, reoccurrence of the cyst is very rare.

2. Mucous retention cyst in lips:

There are many small salivary glands which are present around the lips. They release saliva into the mouth through the ducts.

If these ducts are damaged due to any reason like biting the lips, sucking the lips, lip piercings, any trauma or accident, etc, the ducts become obstructed. This leads to the accumulation of a mucous-like substance in a cyst-like structure in these glands.


Generally, the mucous retention cyst in lips is seen on the lower lips. Sometimes it is seen on the floor of the mouth and also the lower surface of the tongue. It is generally seen in small kids as they bite their lips habitually. They are also seen in young people less than 30 years of age. They are about 1 to 2 cm in size.

In the majority of people, they don’t produce any pain. In some people, they are painful sometimes. They have a little bluish appearance. We can see a change in their size sometimes and they are fluctuant.


The mucous retention cyst in lips doesn’t resolve on their own. We need to excise them surgically after giving local anesthesia. We need to take care not to injure the mental nerve while doing surgical excision.

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If the mental nerve is injured while removing the mucous retention cyst, the patient can suffer from abnormal sensation in and around the mouth like numbness, tingling, crawling sensation. We also need to send the excised tissue to a pathologist to rule out any cancer or malignancy.

3. Mucous retention cyst in maxillary sinus:

On either side of our nose, we have our cheek bones. Beneath the cheek bones, we have the maxillary sinuses which are the air-filled cavities.

They do have mucous glands which produce mucous to facilitate adequate lubrication of the maxillary sinuses. This mucus is drained into the nose through the ostiomeatal complex.

In some people, mucous retention cyst can develop in the maxillary sinuses when there is an obstruction of the ducts draining the mucous glands. These cysts can develop in people with chronic sinusitis, people having allergies and also when there is trauma to the cheek bones.


The mucous retention cyst in the maxillary sinus is generally painless. So, they are accidentally discovered on radiological tests like CT scan of the paranasal sinuses and OPG x-ray which is done for knowing the condition of the teeth.

But, if there is an infection of the mucous retention cyst, there can be a pain in the face near the cheekbones. In some people, it can lead to fainting and can cause severe aches in the head region.


If there is no obstruction of the ostiomeatal complex and the patient is symptomless, any treatment is not necessary. But, if there is any blockage in the ostiomeatal complex, we need to remove the mucous retention cyst surgically. We need to excise it in order to prevent the infections of the cyst.

4. Mucous retention cyst in the frontal sinuses:

We have frontal sinuses beneath the bones of our forehead. They also have mucous producing glands to lubricate them. Sometimes, the ducts of these glands become obstructed and lead to the formation of the mucous retention cyst.

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The cysts in the frontal sinuses lead to a severe headache. They can also lead to the protrusion of the eyes, which is called proptosis.

They also lead to double vision, which is medically called diplopia. As the mucous retention cyst in frontal sinuses is producing many dangerous symptoms, it needs surgical removal.

5. Mucous retention cyst in vocal cords:

There are mucous glands beneath the vocal cords which produce mucus. The mucus produced by these glands lubricates the vocal cords and helps them in functioning properly and producing proper voice.

But, sometimes the ducts of these glands can become clogged due to various reasons. This leads to the formation of mucous retention cyst in the vocal cords.


The mucous retention cyst in the vocal cords can interfere with our voice. They lead to hoarseness of the voice. It is generally seen on only one vocal cord as a round yellow colored enlarged structure. It can also lead to aspiration of food and fluids into the lungs as the vocal cords don’t function properly.


Voice is really very important for us. So, the mucous retention cyst needs to be surgically removed. The ENT surgeon places a small incision on the vocal cord, separates the cyst from the vocal cord and then removes the cyst.

6. Mucous retention cyst on tonsil:

The mucous retention cyst can also develop over the tonsils in the throat. It can also develop over the other parts of the throat. The person having this cyst has a sore throat. He feels it difficult to swallow the foods. The cyst on the tonsil needs to be treated by removal of the tonsils.

Mucous retention cysts in all parts of the body are generally left alone as most of them don’t produce any symptoms. If they are painful or symptomatic, surgery or surgical removal of the cyst is the only option to treat these people with mucous retention cyst.

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