Specialty of Paediatric dermatology

What is a ranula?

A ranula is a type of mucocele found in the mouth. They present as clear or blue-tinged cysts and occur when a salivary gland becomes blocked. They are found on the floor of the mouth underneath the tongue. Often they are small and do not require treatment, however, if they become large they can create problems with speech, swallowing and chewing and require treatment.

What are the symptoms of a ranula?

Typically these cysts do not cause pain and are often unnoticed until they become bigger in size.

What causes a ranula?

Sometimes a ranula can form without cause, however, they usually form due to injury to a salivary gland – such as through oral surgery, repeated biting of the lip or getting hit in the face. Damage results in a blocked salivary gland which causes an accumulation of saliva, forming the cyst.

How is a ranula treated?

Smaller ranulas that do not cause discomfort or pain do not usually require treatment and will eventually disappear on their own. For larger ranulas that interfere with speech, chewing or swallowing can be treated. Either the cyst can be drained to decrease the size of the swelling, however, swelling can recur if fluid accumulates again. In such cases, the cyst can be surgically removed and the relevant salivary gland removed as well. This ensures that the swelling does not return. An alternative treatment is called marsupialisation which invovles the side of the cyst being cut and sutured which allows the saliva to drain freely.

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