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What is Ranula?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon318296 — On Feb 06, 2013

If this is left alone, will it be harmful at any point?

By hyrax53 — On Feb 26, 2011

Ranula treatment is usually not very complicated, but it is good to make sure you know where the removed ranula was so that, if it comes back or pain there persists, you can tell your doctor in case it is something more serious.

By BambooForest — On Feb 24, 2011

I like that the removal is called marsupialization of ranula. It makes sense, being that the root word is pocket, I just can't help imagining koalas or lemurs somehow involved.

I am glad that there is a good treatment for it, though, I recently heard about someone I know having this problem and it hopefully is not too serious.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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