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
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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
- Other viral infections
- Blockage of saliva flow
- Autoimmune diseases
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
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.
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 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 may include:
- Antibiotics for bacterial infections (antibiotics are not effective for viral infections)
- Anti-inflammatory drugs to manage inflammation and pain
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.
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
- David Horn, MD
- Reviewed: 05/2016
- Updated: 05/11/2013
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