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Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Sialadenitis; Salivary Gland Infection)

Definition

Parotitis is swelling in one or both parotid glands. These are 2 large salivary glands that are between each ear and jaw.

The problem can be:

  • Acute—Gets better in a short period of time with or without treatment
  • Chronic—Causes long-term swelling or periods when things are worse and then better
Parotid Gland
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Causes

There are many causes. It depends whether the illness is acute or chronic. The most common causes are:

  • Bacterial infection
  • A viral infection, such as mumps
  • Blockage of saliva flow

Risk Factors

This illness is more common in older adults and newborns. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Dehydration
  • Recent surgery
  • Certain health problems, such as:
  • Blocked saliva flow from:
    • Salivary stone in the parotid gland
    • Mucus plug in a salivary duct
    • Tumor
  • Mental health problems, such as depression or eating disorders
  • Use of certain medicines
  • Radiation therapy for head and neck cancer

Symptoms

Acute parotitis may cause:

  • Sudden pain and swelling that worsens with eating
  • Redness
  • Pus that may drain into the mouth

Chronic parotitis may cause:

  • Swelling around the parotid gland
  • Dry mouth
  • Milky discharge in the mouth

Chronic parotitis can destroy the salivary glands.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health 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.

Pictures may be taken of the area. These may be done with:

Treatment

The cause of the problem will need to be treated. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as warm water rinses and good oral hygiene
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Antibiotics to treat infection
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs to manage swelling and pain
  • Surgery to remove anything that may be blocking saliva flow

Prevention

Good oral hygiene may lower the risk of acute parotitis.

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

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 

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

References

Acute suppurative parotitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-suppurative-parotitis. Accessed October 30, 2020.

Chronic recurrent parotitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chronic-recurrent-parotitis. Accessed October 30, 2020.

Hernandez S, Busso C, et al. Parotitis and Sialendoscopy of the Parotid Gland. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2016 Apr;49(2):381-393.

Parotitis. Net Doctor website. Available at: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/conditions/mouth-and-teeth/a3082/parotitis. Accessed October 30, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2020
  • Update Date: 05/04/2021