Definition

Parotitis is swelling in one or both of the parotid glands. These are two large salivary glands that are inside each cheek over the jaw in front of each ear.

The problem can be:

  • Acute—Swelling that gets better in a short period of time with or without treatment
  • Chronic—Causes long term swelling or periods when things are worse and then better

Parotid Gland

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Causes

There are many causes. It depends whether the illness is acute or chronic. The most common ones are:

  • Bacterial infection
  • A viral infection, such asmumps
  • Blockage of saliva flow

Risk Factors

This illness is more common in older adults and newborns. Other things that may raise your risk are:

  • Dehydration
  • Recent surgery
  • Medical conditions, such as:
  • Blocked saliva flow from:
    • Salivary stone in the parotid gland
    • Mucus plug in a salivary duct
    • Tumor—usually harmless
  • Mental health problems, such as depression or eating disorders
  • Use of certain medicines
  • Radiation therapy for head and neck cancer

Symptoms

Acute parotitis may cause:

  • Sudden pain and swelling that worsens with eating
  • Redness
  • Pus that may drain into the mouth

Chronic parotitis may cause:

  • Swelling around the parotid gland
  • Dry mouth
  • Milky discharge in the mouth

Chronic parotitis can destroy the salivary glands.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to make a diagnosis. Tests may include a blood test and a fluid sample from the parotid gland.

Pictures may be taken of the area. These may be done with:

Treatment

Treatment depends on what is causing the parotitis. This may mean:

Flossing once a day and brush your teeth at least twice a day to help with healing. Warm salt-water rinses can help keep the mouth moist.

You may be given:

  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to manage swelling and pain

Increasing saliva flow may be all that is needed to remove a mucus plug or small stone. This may be done by sucking on a sour candy.

If that is not helpful, the doctor may need to remove a stone, tumor, or other blockage with surgery.

Prevention

Practice good oral hygiene to prevent acute parotitis.