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The mucous membranes (or mucosae; singular: mucosa) are linings of ectodermic origin, covered in epithelium, and are involved in absorption and secretion. They line various body cavities that are exposed to the external environment and internal organs. It is at several places continuous with skin: at the nostrils, the lips, the ears, the genital area, and the anus. The sticky, thick fluid secreted by the mucous membranes and gland is termed mucus (mucous). The term 'mucous membrane' refers to where they are found in the body and not every mucous membrane secretes mucus.

Body cavities featuring mucous membrane include most of the respiratory tract, the entire gastrointestinal tract, including the rectum, the urethra, and various other organs. In addition, the vagina, cervix, the clitoris, the covering of the glans penis (head of the penis) and the inside of the prepuce (foreskin) is mucous membrane, not skin.

Types of mucosa

  • Buccal mucosa
  • Gastric mucosa
  • Intestinal mucosa
  • Olfactory mucosa
  • Oral mucosa