Medscape is available in 5 Language Editions – Choose your Edition here.


Dermatologic Manifestations of Mucous Cyst

  • Author: Christopher R Shea, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
Updated: Jun 06, 2016


A mucous cyst is a benign, common, mucus-containing cystic lesion of the minor salivary glands in the oral cavity (see the image below). Some authors prefer the term mucocele since most of these lesions are not true cysts in the absence of an epithelial lining. The lesions can be located directly under the mucosa (superficial mucous cyst), in the upper submucosa (classic mucous cyst), or in the lower corium (deep mucous cyst). Two types of mucous cysts occur based on the histologic features of the cyst wall: a mucous extravasation cyst formed by mucous pools surrounded by granulation tissue (92%), and a mucous retention cyst with an epithelial lining (8%).[1]

The submucosa shows a mucin-filled, cystlike cavit The submucosa shows a mucin-filled, cystlike cavity below the squamous mucosa. Minor salivary gland lobules are present in the submucosa.


The mechanism of mucous cyst formation is unclear; however, a traumatic etiology rather than an obstructive phenomenon is considered more likely. Chaudhry et al showed that the escape of mucus into the surrounding tissue after severing the excretory salivary ducts led to mucous cyst formation.[2] The frequent location of the mucous cyst in the lateral aspect of the lower lip also supports the role of trauma as an etiologic factor. Although obstruction may play a role in the etiology of the mucous cyst, Chaudhry et al demonstrated that ligation and cutting of the salivary glands' ducts in rodents did not result in mucous cyst formation.[2] Lymphatic vessels may also contribute to the early stages of mucous cyst development. Specifically, the growing mucous cyst may induce a pressure gradient that causes lymphatics to swell with interstitial fluid, eventually rupturing and delivering this fluid back to the mucous cyst.[3]

In a study of 138 pediatric cases, Martins-Filho et al concluded that trauma is the main etiologic factor involved in the development of mucoceles in children. The mucus extravasation phenomenon is the most common histologic type in this age group. Although rare, the retention type seems to be more common in lesions on the floor of the mouth.[4]

After reviewing 1,824 adults, Chi et al confirmed previous findings concerning the clinicopathologic features of oral mucoceles. Although special variants do occur infrequently, they need to be identified to avoid misdiagnosis.[5]




The prevalence of oral mucous cyst is 2.5 lesions per 1000 population.[6]


Mucous cysts are most frequent in whites.


The incidence of mucous cyst is about equal in males and females.[7]


Although patients of all ages can be affected, more than half of mucous cyst cases occur in those younger than 30 years. In a large oral pathology series in children and adolescents, mucocele was the most common entity diagnosed (33% of cases), and the lip mucosa was the site most often involved (48%).[8] However, mucocele is uncommon in neonates and infants.[9] Very rarely, congenital onset has been reported.[10]

Mucous retention cysts are more frequent in older persons; conversely, the majority of mucous cysts in younger patients represent the extravasation type.[11]

Mucous cysts of the glands of Blandin-Nuhn (present on the ventral surface of the tongue) appear to be more prominent in young patients.[11]



Mucous cyst, a benign condition, is self-limited in most cases. Patients with mucous cysts have an excellent prognosis; however, recurrence is common in the absence of resection of the associated salivary gland.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Christopher R Shea, MD Professor and Chief, Section of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, The Pritzker School of Medicine

Christopher R Shea, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatopathology, Society for Investigative Dermatology, Association of Professors of Dermatology, International Society of Dermatopathology, Arthur Purdy Stout Society, Chicago Dermatological Society, Dermatology Foundation, Illinois Dermatological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Markus D Boos, MD, PhD Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine

Markus D Boos, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Pediatrics

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Richard P Vinson, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Mountain View Dermatology, PA

Richard P Vinson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Texas Medical Association, Association of Military Dermatologists, Texas Dermatological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Warren R Heymann, MD Head, Division of Dermatology, Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Warren R Heymann, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatopathology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

William D James, MD Paul R Gross Professor of Dermatology, Vice-Chairman, Residency Program Director, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

William D James, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

David P Fivenson, MD Associate Director, St Joseph Mercy Hospital Dermatology Program, Ann Arbor, Michigan

David P Fivenson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Michigan State Medical Society, Society for Investigative Dermatology, Photomedicine Society, Wound Healing Society, Michigan Dermatological Society, Medical Dermatology Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous author, M. Angelica Selim, MD, to the development and writing of this article.

  1. Oliveira DT, Consolaro A, Freitas FJ. Histopathological spectrum of 112 cases of mucocele. Braz Dent J. 1993. 4(1):29-36. [Medline].

  2. Chaudhry AP, Reynolds DH, Lachapelle CF, Vickers RA. A clinical and experimental study of mucocele (retention cyst). J Dent Res. 1960 Nov-Dec. 39:1253-62. [Medline].

  3. Kundu S, Cheng J, Maruyama S, Suzuki M, Kawashima H, Saku T. Lymphatic involvement in the histopathogenesis of mucous retention cyst. Pathol Res Pract. 2007. 203(2):89-97. [Medline].

  4. Martins-Filho PR, Santos Tde S, da Silva HF, Piva MR, Andrade ES, da Silva LC. A clinicopathologic review of 138 cases of mucoceles in a pediatric population. Quintessence Int. 2011 Sep. 42(8):679-85. [Medline].

  5. Chi AC, Lambert PR 3rd, Richardson MS, Neville BW. Oral mucoceles: a clinicopathologic review of 1,824 cases, including unusual variants. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2011 Apr. 69(4):1086-93. [Medline].

  6. Bouquot JE, Gundlach KK. Oral exophytic lesions in 23,616 white Americans over 35 years of age. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol. 1986 Sep. 62(3):284-91. [Medline].

  7. Yamasoba T, Tayama N, Syoji M, Fukuta M. Clinicostatistical study of lower lip mucoceles. Head Neck. 1990 Jul-Aug. 12(4):316-20. [Medline].

  8. Vale EB, Ramos-Perez FM, Rodrigues GL, Carvalho EJ, Castro JF, Perez DE. A review of oral biopsies in children and adolescents: A clinicopathological study of a case series. J Clin Exp Dent. 2013 Jul 1. 5(3):e144-9. [Medline]. [Full Text].

  9. Shapira M, Akrish S. Mucoceles of the oral cavity in neonates and infants--report of a case and literature review. Pediatr Dermatol. 2014 Mar-Apr. 31(2):e55-8. [Medline].

  10. Silva IH, Cardoso S, Carvalho CN, Carvalho AA, Leão JC, Gueiros LA. Congenital labial mucocele: rare presentation of a common disease. Gen Dent. 2016 Mar-Apr. 64 (2):65-7. [Medline].

  11. Nico MM, Park JH, Lourenco SV. Mucocele in pediatric patients: analysis of 36 children. Pediatr Dermatol. 2008 May-Jun. 25(3):308-11. [Medline].

  12. Nicolatou-Galitis O, Kitra V, Van Vliet-Constantinidou C, et al. The oral manifestations of chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) in paediatric allogeneic bone marrow transplant recipients. J Oral Pathol Med. 2001 Mar. 30(3):148-53. [Medline].

  13. Arendorf TM, van Wyk CW. The association between perioral injury and mucoceles. Int J Oral Surg. 1981 Oct. 10(5):328-32. [Medline].

  14. Bhaskar SN, Bolden TE, Weinmann JP. Experimental obstructive adenitis in the mouse. J Dent Res. 1956 Dec. 35(6):852-62. [Medline].

  15. Harrison JD, Garrett JR. Mucocele formation in cats by glandular duct ligation. Arch Oral Biol. 1972 Oct. 17(10):1403-14. [Medline].

  16. Standish SM, Shafer WG. Serial histologic effects of rat submaxillary and sublingual salivary gland duct and blood vessel ligation. J Dent Res. 1957 Dec. 36(6):866-79. [Medline].

  17. Lattanand A, Johnson WC, Graham JH. Mucous cyst (mucocele). A clinicopathologic and histochemical study. Arch Dermatol. 1970 Jun. 101(6):673-8. [Medline].

  18. Piña AR, Almeida LY, Andrade BA, León JE. Clear cell change in a lower lip mucocele. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2013 May. 17(2):318. [Medline]. [Full Text].

  19. de Brito Monteiro BV, Bezerra TM, da Silveira ÉJ, Nonaka CF, da Costa Miguel MC. Histopathological review of 667 cases of oral mucoceles with emphasis on uncommon histopathological variations. Ann Diagn Pathol. 2016 Apr. 21:44-6. [Medline].

  20. Luiz AC, Hiraki KR, Lemos CA Jr, Hirota SK, Migliari DA. Treatment of painful and recurrent oral mucoceles with a high-potency topical corticosteroid: a case report. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2008 Aug. 66(8):1737-9. [Medline].

  21. Ishida CE, Ramos-e-Silva M. Cryosurgery in oral lesions. Int J Dermatol. 1998 Apr. 37(4):283-5. [Medline].

  22. Toida M, Ishimaru JI, Hobo N. A simple cryosurgical method for treatment of oral mucous cysts. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 1993 Dec. 22(6):353-5. [Medline].

  23. Neumann RA, Knobler RM. Treatment of oral mucous cysts with an argon laser. Arch Dermatol. 1990 Jun. 126(6):829-30. [Medline].

  24. Yague-Garcia J, Espana-Tost AJ, Berini-Aytes L, Gay-Escoda C. Treatment of oral mucocele-scalpel versus CO2 laser. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2009 Sep 1. 14(9):e469-74. [Medline].

  25. Frame JW. Removal of oral soft tissue pathology with the CO2 laser. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 1985 Nov. 43(11):850-5. [Medline].

  26. Huang IY, Chen CM, Kao YH, Worthington P. Treatment of mucocele of the lower lip with carbon dioxide laser. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2007 May. 65(5):855-8. [Medline].

  27. Kopp WK, St-Hilaire H. Mucosal preservation in the treatment of mucocele with CO2 laser. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2004 Dec. 62(12):1559-61. [Medline].

  28. Boj JR, Poirier C, Espasa E, Hernandez M, Espanya A. Lower lip mucocele treated with an erbium laser. Pediatr Dent. 2009 May-Jun. 31(3):249-52. [Medline].

  29. Agarwal G, Mehra A, Agarwal A. Laser vaporization of extravasation type of mucocele of the lower lip with 940-nm diode laser. Indian J Dent Res. 2013 Mar-Apr. 24(2):278. [Medline].

  30. Zhang M, Hayashi H, Fukuyama H, Nakamura T, Kurokawa H, Takahashi T. Traumatic neuroma in the lower lip arising following laser/cryosurgery to treat a mucocele. Oral Dis. 2003 May. 9(3):160-1. [Medline].

The submucosa shows a mucin-filled, cystlike cavity below the squamous mucosa. Minor salivary gland lobules are present in the submucosa.
The wall of the lesion is usually formed by connective tissue, inflammatory cells, foamy macrophages (lower left corner), and salivary gland acini (upper right corner).
All material on this website is protected by copyright, Copyright © 1994-2016 by WebMD LLC. This website also contains material copyrighted by 3rd parties.