Parotitis is inflammation 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.
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
Factors that may increase your chance of parotitis include:
- Dehydration and/or malnutrition
- Recent surgery
- Increased age
- 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 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.
Your doctor will ask 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 and thorough tooth brushing at least twice per 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
- Fabienne Daguilh, MD
- Reviewed: 06/2014
- Updated: 05/11/2013
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