(Sialadenitis; Salivary Gland Infection)
Parotitis causes swelling in one or both of the parotid glands. These are two large salivary glands that sit inside each cheek over the jaw in front of each ear. Usually, the problem goes away by itself, but some cases require treatment. See your doctor if you have swelling or other symptoms in this part of your face.
A variety of factors can lead to an inflamed parotid gland. They include:
- Viral infection
A blockage may block saliva flow and lead to a bacterial infection; causes include:
- Salivary stone in the parotid gland
- Mucus plug in a salivary duct
- Tumor (usually benign)
- Sjogren’s syndrome —an autoimmune disease
- Radiation treatment of head and neck cancer can lead to parotid gland inflammation
- Other conditions can cause the parotid glands to become enlarged, but not infected, including:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Discuss these risk factors with your doctor:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Not vaccinated against mumps
- Age: older than age 65
- HIV-positive or AIDS
- Sjogren’s syndrome
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to parotitis. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. To determine the cause of your symptoms, see your doctor.
- Swelling in front of your ears, below your jaw, or on the floor of your mouth
- Dry mouth
- Strange or foul taste in your mouth
- Pus draining into the mouth
- Mouth or facial pain, especially when you are eating or opening your mouth
- Fever, chills, and other signs of infection
If parotitis recurs, it can cause severe swelling into the neck and can destroy the salivary glands.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. This may be enough to make a diagnosis. Tests may include:
- Removing fluid from the gland and checking it for signs of infection
- X-rays —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body; used to see salivary stones
- Ultrasound —a test that uses sound waves to take pictures of the structures inside the body
- CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
Good Oral Hygiene
Flossing and thorough tooth brushing at least twice a day may help with healing. Warm salt water rinses can help keep the mouth moist. It may also help if you quit smoking.
- Antibiotics—to control bacterial infections only; not effective for viral infections
- Medications—to treat underlying conditions, such as Sjogren’s syndrome or AIDS
- Anti-inflammatories—to manage swelling and pain
To help reduce your chances of getting parotitis, take the following steps:
- Get treatment for infections.
- Get regular dental care.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Suck on sugarless candy or chew sugarless gum to increase the flow of saliva.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Library of Medicine
Public Health Agency of Canada
Cain A. Parotitis. Net Doctor website. Available at: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/parotitis.htm. Updated April 10, 2005. Accessed November 10, 2010.
Chitre VV, Premchandra DJ. Review: recurrent parotitis. Arch Dis Child. 1997;77:359-363.
DynaMed Editorial Team. Acute suppurative parotitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated June 21, 2010. Accessed November 10, 2010.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.