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Mucous retention cysts can be scary. Many people develop them somewhere in the upper respiratory tract and fear it may be cancerous. They are actually benign, but can cause blockages and/or pain. They are often associated with chronic sinusitis, seasonal allergies, or strain on the vocal chords. This article will help you understand the different types of these cysts, what causes each type and treatment options.
What Is a Mucous Retention Cyst?
Mucous retention cysts are small cysts that form when a duct is blocked in the upper respiratory tract. They are most common in the sinus areas and the salivary glands, but can also affect the lips, throat and vocal chords.
When mucus ducts become blocked, the glands that produce mucous become enlarged. This can cause round mucous retention cysts. They usually don’t have any obvious physical symptoms and are often found on CT scans of the head, neck, and sinus areas.
Types of Mucous Retention Cysts
Mucous retention cysts can form in a few different areas that are involved in the production of mucous. Here are the different types:
1. Vocal Cord
If a mucus producing gland near the vocal cord becomes blocked, a mucous retention cyst can form near the vocal folds. These glands are important for lubrication. It is important to understand these cysts are not caused by overuse of the vocal chords.
Symptoms of mucous retention cysts near the vocal folds include hoarse voice, loss of voice, and sometimes aspiration of fluids. The doctor can see a bulging of the vocal fold on one side and a yellow colored lesion.
Treatment is surgery to remove the cyst if it is causing issues. The doctor makes a small cut into the vocal fold and removes the cyst. Many people who do speaking or singing notice improvement in their voice after surgery.
2. Salivary Gland
Trauma or damage to the salivary ducts can cause a collection of mucous near the ruptured gland. The leaking fluid from the gland builds up and leads to a mucous retention cyst.
Symptoms of a cyst near a salivary gland include trouble speaking, chewing and swallowing, but most have no symptoms.
Treatment for a salivary gland cyst usually involves removing the affected salivary gland or draining the gland by making a small incision and placing a stitch until it heals.
A mucous retention cyst on the inside of the lip is painless and filled with a clear liquid. They are very common in people who suck their lips to their teeth. They can also be caused by lip piercings. While they are harmless and benign, they can cause a bump on the inner lip that is permanent.
Symptoms are noticeable bumps on the inner surface of the lip and a discoloration to the mucous membrane around the cyst that sometimes appears blue in color.
Post nasal drip down the back of the throat can occlude the mucus producing glands in the back of the throat or on the tonsils. This can cause a cyst on either the throat or the tonsils.
Symptoms may include sore throat, feeling like you need to clear your throat, and some people complain of headaches.
Treatment is done by making a small incision into the cyst so it can drain and placing a few small stitches in for healing. A cyst on the tonsil may be treated by removal of the tonsils with repeated throat infections.
5. Maxillary Mucous Retention Cyst
Mucous retention cysts can appear in the maxillary sinus area from repeated sinus infections. They are usually found when an x-ray or scan is done of the sinuses.
Symptoms are usually non-existent, but in some cases include chronic sinus infections, dizziness, headaches, and facial pain.
Treatment is usually unnecessary if the cyst isn’t causing a problem. If there are chronic sinus issues, sinus or nasal surgery may need to be performed to remove the cyst and reconstruct the area to prevent reoccurrence.
Experiences of Others
“I was having severe dizzy spells that led to fainting. I went to the emergency room and they said it could be fluid in my middle ear from sinus issues, but this was the worst episode. I had a CT scan done and they found a mucous retention cyst in my right sinus. I received a referral to a neurologist. The neurologist said the sinuses were not draining properly and referred me to an ENT surgeon. The ENT said this was the cause of my dizziness. It was happening when I bent over and then lifted my head back up. The ENT found a really bad sinus infection so he treated me with Clindamycin 300 mg three times daily and a nasal steroid. This didn’t help my symptoms so I was scheduled for sinus surgery.
A few weeks after my surgery I felt so much better. I was breathing better through my nose and the dizzy spells cleared right up. My ENT said normally with a cyst they don’t do much of anything, but if his patients have symptoms then surgery is recommended.”
Kyle, age 34
“I went to the doctor for chronic migraine headaches and she ordered a CT scan of my head. It showed that I had a mucous retention cyst in my maxillary sinus so my doctor referred me to an ENT. I was treated with antibiotics and steroids, but the headaches didn’t get better. I was then referred to a neurologist who said the cyst was most likely not the cause of my migraines. I was hoping the antibiotics and steroids would help, but the ENT said the cyst was not large enough to cause any issues. The neurologist ran more tests and didn’t find anything to cause the migraines. I was told this is pretty common and was sent away with migraine medication. I still think the cyst is causing sinus pressure and if I continue to have issues I will see a different ENT for a second opinion.”
Marie, age 28