What are the Common Causes of Parotid Swelling?

Meshell Powell

The parotid gland is the largest of the salivary glands and is responsible for excreting saliva into the mouth, helping to begin the process of digestion. Parotid swelling may occur for a variety of reasons, including infections, various medical conditions, or the presence of tumors. Treatment for parotid swelling varies according to the cause of the swelling and may include the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications, although surgical intervention may be indicated in some situations. A correct diagnosis is essential so that treatment can begin and potential complications can be avoided.

Damaged salivary glands may occur as a result of bulimia.
Damaged salivary glands may occur as a result of bulimia.

A contagious viral infection known as mumps is one of the most common causes of parotid swelling. Mumps can be spread from one person to another by direct physical contact with an infected person or through air droplets. Common mumps symptoms include facial pain, fever, and sore throat. Parotid swelling becomes noticeable in the area of the face and neck located between the lower jaw and the ear. Treatment for mumps involves the use of over-the-counter pain medications, gargling with warm salt water, and drinking plenty of liquids.

Gargling with warm saltwater can soothe a sore throat.
Gargling with warm saltwater can soothe a sore throat.

Allergic reactions and sensitivities to various medications may lead to parotid swelling. In some cases, the direct cause of the swelling is unknown. Blood tests will often be performed to check for a high white blood cell count, which could indicate that there is some sort of infection in the body. When this is the case, the parotid swelling will often go away after treatment with antibiotics.

Disorders with the thyroid gland increase the risk of developing parotid swelling.
Disorders with the thyroid gland increase the risk of developing parotid swelling.

Some medical conditions increase the risks of developing parotid swelling. These conditions often include thyroid disorders, diabetes, and lupus. AIDS, cystic fibrosis, and anorexia may also lead to this symptom. As the causes of this type of swelling can be extremely varied, it is important to visit a doctor to obtain a proper diagnosis so that an individualized treatment plan may begin.

Parotid swelling may indicate the presence of a tumor.
Parotid swelling may indicate the presence of a tumor.

In some cases, parotid swelling may indicate a blockage or the presence of a tumor. The salivary ducts may become blocked if stones develop and become too large to allow saliva to properly flow into the mouth. Doctors will generally order tests, such as x-rays, to confirm the presence of a blockage or a tumor. If either of these conditions are present, surgical intervention will likely become necessary. While these conditions are relatively rare, it is important to detect them early so that there is a greater chance for a complete recovery.

A sore throat can be a symptom of mumps, which causes parotid swelling.
A sore throat can be a symptom of mumps, which causes parotid swelling.

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