What Is It? Parotitis is an inflammation of the parotid glands. These are two large salivary glands. You have one in front of and just below each ear.
Either one or both parotid glands can be inflamed. They can be inflamed for several reasons, including:
Bacterial infection —This is more common in older people. Older people often take medicines that cause dry mouth. They also are more likely to be dehydrated. When your flow of saliva is reduced, bacteria can collect and grow in the tube that takes saliva from the parotid gland to the mouth.
A salivary stone in the parotid glands — The stone blocks the flow of saliva. This can lead to a swollen gland and sometimes an infection.
Mucus plugs — The parotid glands make saliva with mucus. When the mouth is dry, the mucus thickens and can block or slow the flow of saliva, causing parotitis.
Sjögren's syndrome — This is a lifelong disease that affects the salivary glands and the eyes.
Viral infections — Mumps used to be the most common viral infection of the parotid glands. However, it is rare today because of vaccinations.
AIDS — About 5 of every 100 people with HIV/AIDS have parotid gland problems.
A tumor — A tumor can block the flow of saliva and lead to parotitis. Usually, these tumors are not cancerous.
Certain medical conditions — Some conditions, such as diabetes, alcoholism and bulimia, can cause problems with the parotid glands. But they usually do not cause infection.
When air gets into the ducts of the parotid gland, it's called pneumoparotitis. This condition may or may not include inflammation. It most commonly occurs in wind instrument players, glass blowers and scuba divers.
Symptoms The symptoms depend on the cause of the parotitis. Symptoms can include swelling, pain, bad taste and dry mouth.
Diagnosis If the gland is tender and sore and the skin over it is red and warm, the gland is probably infected. Your doctor may remove fluid from the gland and send it to be tested. This can determine what caused the infection.
If you have mumps, your doctor can diagnose it based on your symptoms and medical history. Sometimes blood tests are helpful.
Your doctor may take an X-ray if he or she thinks you have a salivary stone. In some cases, a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan also may help.
Expected Duration Bacterial parotitis usually responds to antibiotics in a few days. But don't stop taking the medicine just because you feel better. Take it for as long as your doctor has ordered, usually one to two weeks. If you stop the medicine too soon, the infection may not be cured and may come back.
Mumps disappears on its own in about 10 days. Parotitis related to HIV/AIDS or Sjögren's syndrome can be managed, but it may never disappear. Parotitis related to other conditions (such as alcoholism or bulimia) may get better if the condition is brought under control.