Parotitis - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Pictures
What Is Parotitis?
Parotitis is the medical term that is given to the infection and inflammation of the salivary glands. The salivary glands are also known as your "parotid glands." These glands are buried in the back of each of your cheeks, just below and in front of your ears. You can get an infection and inflammation in one or both of the glands. Your salivary glands are responsible for producing saliva, which is important in keeping your mouth clean. If you have an inflammation in those glands, their ability to function correctly decreases and could lead to an infection in your mouth. It can affect any age, gender, or race.
Symptoms of Parotitis
When your parotid glands are swollen and inflamed, a variety of symptoms can occur, and they can vary in intensity with each person. There are some patients who do not even realize they have parotitis, while others have severe pain and swelling.
Neck and throat symptoms:
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Dry mouth
- Facial or mouth pain, especially while eating
- Redness over the upper neck or the side of the face
- Sore throat
- Swelling in the jaw region, particularly in front of the ears or on the floor of the mouth
Symptoms that may indicate a condition that is serious:
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- High fever (over 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
Causes of Parotitis
There are many different causes of parotitis:
- Bacterial infections - This cause is more common in elderly people because they often take medication that can cause dry mouth. If your flow of saliva is decreased, bacteria can collect and grow in the tube the saliva travels through to get from the parotid gland to your mouth, causing an infection.
- Salivary stone in your parotid glands - If this happens, your saliva flow is blocked and can sometimes lead to an infection and having swollen gland(s).
- Mucus plugs - When your parotid glands make saliva it is with mucus, and if the mouth is dry it causes the mucus to thicken, which can slow down, or even block the flow of your saliva.
- Viral infections - The most common viral infection used to be mumps, but due to vaccinations it is rare to get mumps today.
- AIDS - Approximately five out of every one hundred people who have HIV/AIDS have problems with their parotid glands.
- Tumor - This is is not usually cancerous, but a tumor can block the flow of your saliva.
- Certain medical conditions - Although these medical conditions do not cause an infection, they can cause problems with your parotid glands. Some of these medical conditions include bulima, diabetes, and alcoholism.
The first thing that needs to be done before treatment can be started is to find out what is causing the swelling of your parotid glands and causing parotitis. The physician will examine your glands for pain and tenderness symptoms. If the skin over the gland area is warm and red along with the area being sore and tender, you have probably have an infection in your parotid gland. In order to confirm the cause is the physician will do imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI, or X-ray, and also order blood work to rule out tumors, stones, or other abnormalities. Once the physician has the results, then they can determine the right treatment.
If the swelling is from bacterial parotitis or any other type of infection, the physician will usually prescribe a course of antibiotic treatment. If there are stones, then the physician will suggest that they be removed using a surgical method that is non-invasive. Small stones can be removed with a probe, but the larger stones will probably require surgery. Some of the salivary stones can be pulled out with tweezers or flushed out. There are some people who have a lot of these salivary stones. If you have the initial stages of a tumor, the physician will start you on a medication to help slow down, and maybe even stop, the condition. If it is necessary there is surgery to excise the gland(s) affected. You may also need surgery to drain any infected material from the salivary glands.
At home you need to concentrate on reducing the tenderness and swelling along with managing the symptoms of pain, if you have any.
Here are some more treatments you can do at home:
- Drink plenty of water, and stay well hydrated.
- Apply warm compresses to the swollen areas.
- You can gargle with warm salt water four times daily.
- If you have a blocked parotid gland you can gently massage the gland(s) that are affected to help return the normal flow of saliva to your mouth.
- If the cause is a mucus plug, you can make more saliva by drinking plenty of water along with sucking on sugar-free, sour hard candies.
- For pain you can take over-the-counter "nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications," such as ibuprofen, naproxen, Advil, etc. If the pain is severe, your physician may prescribe a narcotic pain reliever for short-term use.
- You should also practice good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing at least two times a day to help with the healing, and to help prevent the infection from spreading.