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Parotitis

(Sialadenitis; Salivary Gland Infection)

Pronounced: PEAR-uh-TIE-tiss

Definition

Parotitis is inflammation in one or both of the parotid glands. These are 2 large salivary glands that are inside each cheek over the jaw in front of each ear.

Parotitis can be:

  • Acute—inflammation that resolves in a short period of time with or without treatment
  • Chronic—includes persistent inflammation or alternating periods of flare-ups and remission

Parotid Gland

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Causes    TOP

An inflamed parotid gland has several causes. These vary depending on whether the condition is acute or chronic. The most common causes include:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Mumps
  • Other viral infections
  • Blockage of saliva flow
  • Autoimmune diseases

Risk Factors    TOP

This condition is more common in older adults. Other factors that may increase your chance of parotitis include:

  • Dehydration and/or malnutrition
  • Recent surgery
  • Radiation therapy for head and neck cancer
  • Medical conditions, such as:
  • Blocked saliva flow, resulting from:
    • Salivary stone in the parotid gland
    • Mucus plug in a salivary duct
    • Tumor—usually benign
  • Psychiatric conditions, such as depression or eating disorders
  • Use of certain medications
  • Poor oral hygiene

Symptoms    TOP

Acute parotitis may cause:

  • Sudden facial pain and swelling that worsens with salivation or after eating
  • Redness and tenderness
  • Pus that may drain into the mouth

Chronic parotitis may cause:

  • Swelling around the parotid gland
  • Dry mouth
  • Milky secretions
  • Strange or foul taste in your mouth
  • Fever, chills, and other signs of infection

Chronic parotitis can destroy the salivary glands.

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical 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.

Imaging tests evaluate the parotid gland and surrounding structures. These may include:

Treatment    TOP

Treatment depends on what is causing the parotitis. Options may include:

Good Oral Hygiene

Flossing once a day and thorough tooth brushing at least twice a day may help with healing. Warm salt-water rinses can help keep the mouth moist. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways you can quit.

Medications

Medications may include:

  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections (antibiotics are not effective for viral infections)
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to manage inflammation and pain

Blockage Removal    TOP

Your doctor may need to remove a stone, tumor, or other blockage. Increasing saliva flow may be all that is needed to remove a mucus plug.

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce your chances of parotitis:

  • Get prompt treatment for any infections.
  • See your dentist for proper oral care as recommended.
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
  • Receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination if you have not yet been vaccinated

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
http://www.nidcr.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References:

Acute suppurative parotitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated June 21, 2010. Accessed June 10, 2015.
Cain A. Parotitis. Net Doctor website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 10, 2015.
Chitre VV, Premchandra DJ. Review: recurrent parotitis. Arch Dis Child. 1997;77(4):359-363.
Wilson KF, Meier JD, Ward PD. Salivary gland disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2014;9(11):882-888.
Last reviewed May 2016 by David Horn, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013

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