Retention Cyst

What is Retention Cyst?

A retention cyst, commonly known as mucous retention cyst is a small sac that contains mucus and forms when the mucous duct gets blocked due to an irritant. It occurs in different parts of the body that includes maxillary sinuses, vocal cords, lips, throat, salivary gland and frontal sinuses.

The cyst can be seen with the naked eyes if it is present on the lips. But other types of mucoceles can only be accidentally found through imaging tests like MRI scan or CT scan done for different reasons.

Types of Mucous Retention Cyst

Mucous Retention Cyst in Vocal Cords

Beneath the vocal cords, there are mucous glands which produce mucus and lubricates the vocal cords to produce voice. But sometimes the duct produced by the gland becomes clogged due to different reasons ending up in forming mucous retention cyst in the vocal cords.


If the cyst is in the vocal cords, then it can affect the voice leading to hoarseness of the sound. It is present as a rounded yellow colored lesion on the fold in the way of the bulge. The malfunctioning of the vocal cords may lead to aspiration of fluid and food into the lungs.


Surgical intervention can only remove the mucous retention cyst in the vocal cords. A small incision in the folds is made to separate the cyst from the vocal cords and then deleted.

Mucous Retention Cyst on Lips

There are numerous salivary glands present on the inner surface of the lips which releases saliva from the duct into the mouth. Any trauma or injury like biting of the lips, piercing on the lips or sucking the lips can cause the saliva to build up within the gland and form a mucous retention cyst.


The mucous retention cysts appear as a bluish hue and are about 1 to 2 cm in size. Usually, the cyst is seen on the lower lips, but it can be seen on the lower surface of the tongue and surface of the mouth. These cysts are common amongst small kids as they have the habit of biting their lips. It might also be seen in adults of age below 30 years.


The cyst on the lips cannot resolve on their own. It needs surgery after giving local anesthesia. But before any surgery, it is crucial to avoid further injuries on the cyst.

While removing the cyst, if the mental nerve is injured then a person can suffer from crawling, numbness and tingling sensation in and around the mouth. To rule out any malignancy or cancer, the excised tissue should be sent to a pathologist.

Mucous Retention Cyst in Salivary Gland

The salivary gland secretes saliva through the salivary duct, but if the duct gets affected by any trauma or injury, the saliva gets accumulated in the gland which results in mucous retention cyst.


The cyst has a well-defined border with bluish appearance and is painless. It mostly occurs in people aged between 30 to 50 years.


The cyst in the salivary gland can be removed or drained with a small and straightforward incision followed by stitching it. But proper care is necessary to prevent it from affecting the surrounding structures during its removal.

Mucous Retention Cyst in Maxillary Sinus

Beneath the cheekbones, there is maxillary sinus filled with air cavities and mucous gland which produces mucous to lubricate maxillary sinus. This type of cyst can develop if the duct is obstructed from draining or any of the following reasons:

  • Trauma to the cheekbones
  • Allergies
  • Chronic sinusitis


The retention cyst in the maxillary sinuses does not have any symptoms, but in some cases, it can show signs such as:

  • Headache
  • Facial pain
  • Sinus infection


Usually, the cyst does not require any treatment, but if there are frequent sinus problems, then nasal surgery may be necessary to remove the cyst and prevent recurrence.

Mucous Retention Cyst in Throat

The cyst in the throat generally develops on the tonsils, but it may form in other parts of the throat too. This is because at the back of the throat there are mucous producing glands which can occlude.


The symptoms of this particular cyst in the throat include:

  • Constant clearance of throat
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty in swallowing food


The only option to treat the throat cyst is surgery and if the cyst is present on the tonsil, then it has to be removed.

Mucous Retention Cyst in Frontal Sinuses

The frontal sinuses are present beneath the bones of our forehead and they have mucous glands to lubricate them. The ducts get occluded which leads to the formation of mucous retention cyst.


The cyst has the following symptoms:

  • Severe headache
  • Double vision (diplopia)
  • Protrusion of the eye (proptosis)


Mucous retention cyst in the frontal sinuses produces terrible symptoms so it can only be treated surgically.

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