Saliva Gland Infections - A Look at the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Parotid Gland Infection

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What are Parotid Glands?

Parotid gland infection is one of the reasons of facial swelling in front of the ears. Salivary glands are located in and around the throat and the mouth and produce saliva for moistening the mouth, aiding digestion and preventing tooth decay. These glands empty the saliva into the mouth through ducts located throughout the mouth. The parotid glands are the largest of these glands and are located in the cheeks over the jaw, right in front of the ears. Infection of the parotid glands is one of the key factors leading to parotitis or inflammation in the area. Let’s have a brief look at the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for the infection of these saliva glands.

Causes and Symptoms of Parotid Gland Infection

Mumps is the most common reason for infection of the parotid glands. The condition is most common in children, although adults can also get this infection.

Salivary duct stones can cause obstruction to the flow of the saliva. In such cases, the saliva is produced but obstruction prevents it from exiting, causing facial inflammation, pain, and infection in the parotid glands.

Infection in the nearby lymph nodes (glands located in the upper neck) can spread to the salivary glands. During an infection, these lymph nodes get enlarged and may cause a red and painful swelling in the parotid glands.

People who are dehydrated or hospitalized or maintain poor oral hygiene may also get bacterial infections in these salivary glands.

Symptoms of Infection in the Parotid Glands

Abnormal or foul tastes and dryness in the mouth are two of the main symptoms of saliva gland infections. These may be accompanied with difficulties in opening the mouth and pain in the mouth or the face while eating. Redness or swelling in front of the ears and below the jaw may also be seen. The individual may also have fever and pus draining into the mouth.

Diagnosis of Infections of the Salivary Glands

A careful medical history, a physical examination, and lab tests may be used by the physician for the diagnosis of infection in the parotid glands. Pus draining into the mouth and facial pain and swelling, especially in the area below the jaw and in front of the ears may be seen as a sign of an infection. The physician may also require a CT scan or ultrasound if he/she suspects an abscess in the gland.

Treatment of Infections in the Parotid Glands

Treatment may not be required in all cases and the infection may go away on its own. Bacterial infections or pus with fever may benefit from antibiotics, although these are ineffective in case of viral infections. If a CT scan or ultrasound reveals an abscess, surgical drainage or aspiration may be required.

Self-treatment of a parotid gland infection can include warm salt water rinses, drinking lots of water, use of sugar-free lemon drops, and heat massage of the area around the parotid glands. Besides these, maintaining a good oral hygiene is necessary to aid the healing process. This means brushing and flossing twice every day and quitting smoking.


Medline Plus: Salivary Gland Infections

American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Inc.: Salivary Glands - What’s Normal What’s Abnormal