Definition

What are salivary gland problems?

Your salivary glands produce saliva, which keeps your mouth moist, helps protect your teeth from rapid decay and helps you to digest your food. The salivary glands are relatively small, and they’re around the inner linings of your mouth, lips, and cheeks.

A number of diseases can affect your salivary glands. These range from cancerous tumors to Sjogren’s syndrome. While some go away with time or antibiotics, others require more serious treatments, including surgery.

How common are salivary gland problems?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of salivary gland problems?

The symptoms of sialolithiasis include:

  • A painful lump under the tongue
  • Pain that increases when eating

Sialadenitis symptoms include:

  • A lump in your cheek or under your chin
  • Pus that drains into your mouth
  • Strong or foul-smelling pus
  • A fever

Cysts that grow in your salivary glands can cause:

  • Yellow mucus that drains upon bursting
  • Difficulty eating
  • Difficulty speaking
  • difficulty swallowing

Viral infections in the salivary glands, such as mumps, can cause:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling on both sides of the face
  • Headache

The symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Tooth decay
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Dry cough
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Frequent salivary gland infections

If you have diabetes or alcoholism, you may also have swelling in the salivary glands.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth pain
  • Facial swelling
  • Trouble opening your mouth

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes salivary gland problems?

You have three paired salivary glands called the parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands. They are responsible for producing saliva. The most common cause of salivary gland problems is blocked salivary glands, which can cause painful symptoms.

Sialolithiasis and sialadenitis are problems that can occur in the salivary glands. Sialolithiasis occurs when stones made of calcium form in the salivary glands. These stones can block the glands, which can partially or completely stop the flow of saliva.

Sialadenitis (or sialoadenitis) is an infection involving a salivary gland. It often results from stones blocking the gland. Staph or strep bacteria can cause this infection. Older adults and infants are most likely to develop this condition.

Sjogren’s syndrome is another common salivary gland disorder. It occurs when white blood cells target healthy cells in moisture-producing glands, such as the salivary, sweat, and oil glands. This condition most commonly affects women with autoimmune disorders, such as lupus.

Viruses also can affect the salivary glands. These include:

  • Flu virus
  • Mumps
  • Coxsackie virus
  • Echovirus
  • Cytomegalovirus

Cancerous and noncancerous tumors may develop in the salivary glands as well. Cancerous tumors of the salivary glands are rare. They typically occur between ages 50 and 60, according to Cedars-Sinai .

Noncancerous tumors that can affect the parotid glands include pleomorphic adenomas and Warthin’s tumors. Benign pleomorphic adenomas can also grow in the submandibular gland and the minor salivary glands, but this is rare.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for salivary gland problems?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are salivary gland problems diagnosed?

Your doctor will recommend testing based on your medical history and a physical exam. However, some cases are quite obvious from the history and physical exam. In such cases, diagnostic tests may not be necessary.

Your doctor may want to see the blockage to diagnose a salivary gland obstruction. Taking a dental X-ray of the affected area can help to pinpoint the obstruction. A head and neck surgeon can then use anesthesia to numb the salivary gland opening and free any blockage.

If your doctor needs to finely target the salivary glands, an MRI or CT scan can provide more in-depth images. Also, a biopsy to remove salivary gland tissue can aid in diagnosis, particularly if your doctor suspects you may have an autoimmune disorder that affects your salivary glands.

How are salivary gland problems treated?

Treatment for salivary gland disorders depends on the disease type and how advanced it is.

For example, if you have a mass in your salivary gland, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the mass or the gland itself. If the mass is cancerous, you may need radiation treatments to kill off cancerous cells. These treatments won’t typically start until your body has had time to heal. This is typically four to six weeks after surgery.

Radiation treatments to the neck can cause dry mouth, which can be uncomfortable and affect your digestion. Your doctor may recommend drinking more fluids and avoiding foods high in sodium.

If the salivary gland mass isn’t cancerous, radiation may not be required. A mass that doesn’t cause symptoms may be treated with conservative measures. This includes special mouthwashes to relieve dry mouth.

Antibiotics can treat bacterial infections.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage salivary gland problems?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with salivary gland problems:

Taking good care of your teeth is vital to successful salivary gland treatment. Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day can help prevent salivary gland disorders and tooth decay.

You can keep your mouth moist by rinsing with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 30, 2017 | Last Modified: October 30, 2017

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