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A ranula is a cyst filled with mucus that appears as a result of the blockage of a salivary gland, which causes trauma and eventually leads to the development of a cyst in the surrounding connective tissue. They sometimes appear in the mouth, where they are known as oral ranulas, and they can also be found in the neck, in the case of cervical ranulas. Classically, these cysts appear under the tongue in the form of sublingual ranulas. There are several treatment options available to deal with these types of cysts. These growths can be found in animals as well as humans.
These cysts can wax and wane in size. They may be pinkish or blue in color, depending on how deeply seated they are, and they can make it difficult to eat or talk if they are found in the mouth. People can also mistake one for a more serious cancerous growth, especially if they have never developed one before. The growth may feel uncomfortable, especially if it is under the tongue, and it can be readily seen and felt.
Sometimes, the cyst resolves on its own, or stays so small that it is not an issue. In other cases, an oral surgeon may perform a procedure known as marsupialization, in which the cyst is opened to create a pocket. The pocket will lie flat and be unable to fill with fluid again. Sometimes, the opening of the pocket heals over, however, allowing the cyst to develop again. In this case, the growth must be removed along with the attached blocked gland to prevent reformation of the ranula.
Those that develop in the mouth are treated by an oral surgeon, who can recommend marsupialization or excision after examining the growth and discussing the patient's history. A cervical ranula requires the attention of an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon. Both types of surgeon can be found practicing in most communities, and a primary care provider or dentist may be able to recommend a particular medical professional.
Sometimes, a more serious problem masquerades as a ranula so it's important for people to see a medical professional for a suspected cyst of any type, even if he or she simply confirms that the growth does not require further attention. A patient with a minor cyst that does not require treatment may want to note the presence of the growth to new healthcare providers so that they know that the patient is aware of the situation.