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Mucocele (Mucous Cyst): Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Mucocele or mucous cyst is a fluid-filled swelling that develops on the mouth or the lip. Almost all of us, more than once in our life, have had developed a bump or a lump on the lips. The harmless cyst, a soft swelling on your lips or mouth can be bothersome in some cases [1] . The cyst develops as a result of your salivary gland becoming plugged with mucus.

Usually, it develops on the lower lip; however, it can also appear anywhere in your mouth. They are usually painless and not severe, however, lack of timely treatment can result in the cyst becoming permanent. Mucocele is commonly found in people between the ages of 10 to 25 [2] . But that does not state that the people of other age will not develop it. The cysts affect men and women equally [3] .

Causes Of Mucocele

The swelling with pus develops as a result of oral cavity trauma. The saliva passes to your mouth from your salivary gland through tiny tubes (ducts). In the event of any damage or blockage in the ducts, mucocele develops as the saliva does not have the ease of moving from the duct to your mouth and results in mucous build-up [4] .

The causes of mucocele are as follows [5] :

  • Lip biting or cheek biting
  • Piercings
  • Adjacent teeth causing chronic damage
  • Cheek biting
  • Accidental rupture of a salivary gland
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Reaction to tartar-control toothpaste

Apart from the above-mentioned causes, one can develop mucocele as a result of lip biting induced by stress. Stress is one of the highest risks associated with mucous cysts [6] .

Symptoms Of Mucocele

The signs of the swelling vary in accordance with the depth of the cyst; that is, how deep the cyst is within the skin and the interval of its occurrence. They can appear near the surface of the skin or deep within the skin [7] .

Symptoms of cysts deeper within the skin are as follows [8] :

  • Round in shape
  • Has a white colour
  • Tenderness

Symptoms of cysts near the surface of the skin are as follows [9] :

  • Raised swelling
  • Bluish colour
  • Softness
  • Lesions less than 1 centimetre in diameter

When To See A Doctor

Although you may think that a mucocele will go away like a mouth ulcer, it is critical that you go to a doctor for any cyst that appears in or around your mouth. You must go to the doctor immediately if [10]

  • the cysts become large and uncomfortable,
  • there is a pain, and
  • it stays on for a period longer than a month.

Diagnosis Of Mucocele

In order to examine the root cause of the cyst, your doctor will ask you about your habits such as nail biting, lip biting, and cheek biting [11] .

A biopsy of the cysts is most likely required so as to make an efficient and proper diagnosis. The biopsy will be comprised of your doctor removes a small tissue from around the affected area as a sample. On examining the tissue, the doctor will be able to understand if the cyst is cancerous or not.

A biopsy will be required when [12]

  • the appearance of the cysts suggests adenoma (cancer) or lipoma,
  • the mucous cyst is larger than 2 centimetres, and
  • there is no history of trauma.

Treatments For Mucocele

Most mucous cysts go away with time, without any treatment. However, some cysts can enlarge and cause discomfort. These type of mucoceles require treatment because the infection has spread. Treatment for mucocele depends on the severity of the cyst because most heal without the need for any medical attention. Do not try to open or remove the cysts at home as it will not prevent the infection and will cause tissue damage [13] .

  • Laser therapy: The treatment uses a small beam of light which is directed, to remove the cyst.
  • Intralesional corticosteroid injection: Under this method, a steroid will be injected into the cyst, so as to reduce the inflammation and speed up the healing process.
  • Cryotherapy: Under this treatment, the cyst will be removed by freezing its tissues.

Surgical removal of the cyst can be recommended in some cases where the mucocele is severe. The surgery may remove the cyst alone or the complete salivary gland to prevent mucocele from recurring [14] .

Once the therapies and surgeries are carried out, it may take up to a week to two years for the cysts to heal - depending on the severity and the type of the cyst.

Home Remedies For Mucocele

  • Warm salt water can help speed up the healing process of the cysts [15] .
  • Avoid biting your cheek and lips constantly.
  • Identify the trigger for lip biting habits and find ways to deal with it.
  • In the case of stress-induced lip biting, try yoga or meditation to cure anxiety and stress.
  • Chewing on sugarless gum to avoid biting your lips and mouth.
View Article References
  1. [1] Waldron, D. R., & Smith, M. M. (1991). Salivary mucoceles.Problems in veterinary medicine,3(2), 270-276.
  2. [2] Harrison, J. D. (1975). Salivary mucoceles.Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology,39(2), 268-278.
  3. [3] Karbe, E., & Nielsen, S. W. (1966). Canine ranulas, salivary mucoceles and branchial cysts.Journal of Small Animal Practice,7(10), 625-630.
  4. [4] Ohta, N., Fukase, S., Suzuki, Y., & Aoyagi, M. (2011). Treatment of salivary mucocele of the lower lip by OK-432.Auris Nasus Larynx,38(2), 240-243.
  5. [5] Baurmash, H. D. (2003). Mucoceles and ranulas.Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery,61(3), 369-378.
  6. [6] Rahal, S. C., Nunes, A. L., Teixeira, C. R., & Cruz, M. L. (2003). Salivary mucocele in a wild cat.The Canadian Veterinary Journal,44(11), 933.
  7. [7] Harrison, J. D., & Garrett, J. R. (1975). An ultrastructural and histochemical study of a naturally occurring salivary mucocele in a cat.Journal of comparative pathology,85(3), 411-416.
  8. [8] Bhaskar, S. N., Bolden, T. E., & Weinmann, J. P. (1956). Pathogenesis of mucoceles.Journal of dental research,35(6), 863-874.
  9. [9] Henry, C. J. (1992). Salivary mucocele associated with dirofilariasis in a dog.Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association,200(12), 1965-1966.
  10. [10] Sahasrabudhe, K. S., Kimball, J. R., Morton, T. H., Weinberg, A., & Dale, B. A. (2000). Expression of the antimicrobial peptide, human β-defensin 1, in duct cells of minor salivary glands and detection in saliva.Journal of dental research,79(9), 1669-1674.
  11. [11] Lee, K. H., Cepeda, L., Miller, M., & Siegel, D. M. (2009). Mucoceles not–Oral cysticercosis and minor salivary gland adenocarcinoma: Two case reports.Dermatology online journal,15(7).
  12. [12] Porter, S. R., Scully, C., Kainth, B., & Ward-Booth, P. (1998). Multiple salivary mucoceles in a young boy.International journal of paediatric dentistry,8(2), 149-151.
  13. [13] Cohen, L. (1965). Mucoceles of the oral cavity.Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology and Oral Radiology,19(3), 365-372.
  14. [14] Yasuno, H., Nagai, H., Ishimura, Y., Watanabe, T., Yamasaki, H., Anayama, H., ... & Kandori, H. (2011). Salivary mucocele in a laboratory beagle.Journal of toxicologic pathology,24(2), 131-135.
  15. [15] Hoque, M. O., Azuma, M., & Sato, M. (1998). Significant correlation between matrix metalloproteinase activity and tumor necrosis factor‐oc in salivary extravasation mucoceles.Journal of oral pathology & medicine,27(1), 30-33.

Story first published: Saturday, April 13, 2019, 9:30 [IST]
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