Health Library

Parotitis

Definition

Parotitis causes swelling 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. It may require treatment.

Parotid Gland
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Causes

A variety of factors can lead to an inflamed parotid gland. Causes will vary depending on whether the condition is chronic or acute. They include:

  • Bacterial infection due to staphylococcus, streptococcus, or haemophilus
  • Viral infection due to mumps or AIDS
  • 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
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Malnutrition
  • 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:

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chances of getting parotitis include:

  • Dehydration
  • Recent surgery
  • Increased age
  • Medical conditions, such as:
    • HIV-positive or AIDS
    • Sjogren’s syndrome
    • Diabetes
    • Malnutrition
    • Alcoholism
    • Bulimia
  • Depression
  • Use of certain medications
  • Poor oral hygiene

Symptoms

Symptoms of parotitis include:

  • 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.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to make a diagnosis.

Your bodily fluid may be tested. This can be done by removing fluid from the gland.

Images may be taken of structures inside your body. This can be done with:

Treatment

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. If you smoke, quit.

Medications

  • 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

Blockage Removal

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.

Prevention

To help reduce your chances of getting parotitis, take the following steps:

  • Get treatment for infections.
  • Get regular dental care.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination if you have not yet been vaccinated

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov
National Library of Medicine
http://www.nlm.nih.gov

Canadian Resources

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

References

Acute suppurative parotitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated June 21, 2010. Accessed June 6, 2013.
Cain A. Parotitis. Net Doctor website. Available at: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/parotitis.htm. Updated October 4, 2005. Accessed June 6, 2013.
Chitre VV, Premchandra DJ. Review: recurrent parotitis. Arch Dis Child. 1997;77:359-363.