A salivary gland infection occurs when bacteria or viruses affect the structure of the glands. These organs are responsible for producing saliva and secreting it into the mouth through the ducts.
There are three pairs of these major glands, in addition to the hundreds of smaller glands distributed throughout the buccal mucosa:
- The parotids on both sides of the face, below and in front of the ears.
- The submaxillae, which are located on each side under the mandible.
- The sublingual ones that are found under the tongue, in front of the mouth.
Saliva helps keep the mouth clean, lubricated and healthy, as well as being needed for digestion. moistening, breaking down and facilitating swallowing of food. A salivary gland infection can affect saliva flow. Find out here what are its causes, symptoms and what should be done if it happens.
A person with a salivary gland infection may experience the following symptoms:
- Dry mouth.
- Pain in the mouth or face.
- Constant unpleasant or strange taste.
- Discomfort or pain when opening the mouth, chewing and swallowing.
- presence of pus
- Swelling and redness of the face, neckunder and in front of the ears, in the lower part of the mouth or under the jaw.
- Fever, sweat and chills.
These symptoms usually last about a week, although a little inflammation may persist for a little longer. They will depend on the location and severity of the infection.
Timely consultation with a doctor will allow for an accurate diagnosis, because these symptoms are similar to those of other conditions and a professional evaluation is needed to confirm the condition.
Causes of salivary gland infection
As we have already mentioned, a salivary gland infection or sialadenitis is due to the presence of bacteria or viruses. This colonization of microorganisms is most common when there is a blockage in the saliva duct and this accumulates in the body of the gland, making it more susceptible to invasion by germs.
Of the salivary gland infections caused by viruses, mumps is the most common, with a higher incidence in children. Although with the use of the triple viral vaccine its frequency is less and less. Other viruses, such as Epstein Barr (EBV), coxsackievirus, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can also cause inflammation of the salivary glands.
The bacterial origin is more frequent, especially in adults. The bacteria responsible for the infection are usually those present in the normal flora of the mouth and also some staphylococci. In general, they are usually unilateral, and fever and pain accompany the inflammation.
Although the ultimate cause of a salivary gland infection is bacterial or viral attack, there are conditions that increase the chances of these structures being colonized by germs:
- Blockage or reduction of saliva flow from tumors, stones or abscesses in the ducts or in the salivary glands themselves.
- Reduced saliva flow due to medical conditions: Autoimmune diseases, such as Sjögren’s syndrome and sarcoidosis, cause dry mouth. AIDS and diabetes also predispose.
- Dry mouth associated with medication use, such as diuretics or antihistamines or from radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments.
- Dehydration and malnutrition.
- very winding channels that impede the flow of saliva. This condition is very common in the submandibular gland.
- poor oral hygiene Increases the proliferation of microorganisms.
- Abnormalities in the salivary glands.
- already smokingalcoholism.
- Be over 65 years old.
- Not be vaccinated against mumps.
Diagnosis of salivary gland infection
Diagnosis of a salivary gland infection should be made by a doctor, considering the history, the physical examination and, in some cases, also using complementary methods. Enlargement of the area, pus, and pain in the gland may be indicative of a bacterial infection.
Complementary methods, such as ultrasounds, MRIs, and CT scans, can help look for an underlying cause. The localization of stones, abscesses or tumors in the glands explains the appearance of the infection and allows planning a more comprehensive treatment.
Salivary endoscopy and sialography (injection of a contrast medium) are specific imaging studies of the salivary glands. These can be helpful in diagnosis, especially in cases of blocked ducts.
Moreover, in some cases, the doctor may suggest a biopsy of the salivary gland and its duct to analyze the affected tissue. Also to study the liquid contained within; especially if it is necessary to determine which microorganism is behind it.
Complications from a salivary gland infection are not very common. Lack of treatment can cause pus to accumulate inside and form a chronic abscess.
Also salivary gland infection can spread to other parts of the body. It is a complication that needs to be resolved urgently, because due to its location there is a risk of affecting the floor of the mouth and generating cellulite called Ludwig’s angina what affects breathing.
In cases where the infection was caused by the presence of a benign tumor, it leads to enlargement of the gland and becomes annoying, uncomfortable and unsightly. If, however, there is a malignancy (cancer) associated with the infection, it grows rapidly, affects mobility and spreads to other parts of the body.
In infections that occur repeatedly and frequently, the body’s inflammatory response can destroy the affected glandular tissue. While complications aren’t that common, they are a possibility; for this reason it is always important to carry out an appropriate treatment.
Treatments and cures for a salivary gland infection
Treatment of a salivary gland infection will depend on its severity, location, associated symptoms, and most importantly, whether there is an underlying cause responsible for the onset of the condition.
When the infection is caused by a virus, it usually clears up on its own after a few days. In general, the evolution and symptoms are monitored. In cases where the infection is bacterial there is pus and fever. The use of antibiotics is necessary. Drainage by aspirating the abscess with a needle may also be helpful.
Those pictures which are complicated require hospitalization, hydration and placement of intravenous antibiotics. The spread of the infection to the deep tissues of the head and neck, which is very dangerous, must be avoided.
Surgical treatment is sometimes necessary, especially for infections that occur recurrently, persistently, or are associated with cancer. Surgery may involve removing part or all of the gland.
When the infection is associated with stones blocking the ducts, these too must be removed surgically. If they are small, it is called a minimally invasive technique endoscopic; if instead they are bigger, a surgery more blood is needed. In both cases, the gland can be preserved.
some care at home
Home remedies that stimulate saliva flow can help improve symptoms. These are some:
- Drink a lot of water.
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of lemon water a day.
- Make mouthwashes with warm water and salt.
- Suck on sugarless or citrus sour candies.
- Give circular massages to the affected gland.
- Apply heat and warm compresses to the area for 10-15 minutes.
- Use saliva substitutes.
- Maintain good oral hygiene.
- Smokers should avoid tobacco.
In any case, these do not replace the treatment suggested by professionals, who have the task of indicating the best therapy for each particular condition.
When to consult a professional?
As we have already mentioned, It is important that the treatment of salivary gland infections be prescribed by a health professional. Therefore, any alteration in saliva flow, the feeling of dry mouth or an unpleasant taste, the presence of fever or swelling and redness of the face or neck are already sufficient reasons to consult.
If symptoms are very severe, interfere with eating, swallowing or breathing, last more than two weeks, or start to spread more and more, immediate attention is vital. Early treatment can prevent serious complications.
Some tips to avoid salivary gland infections
While there is no way to prevent the development of a salivary gland infection, some practices can help reduce the risk of developing it. Drinking lots of water and staying hydrated, for example, helps.
Maintaining good oral hygiene, brushing your teeth and using mouthwashes and floss, decreases the number of microorganisms in your mouth. Visiting the dentist frequently and performing dental cleanings every 6 months also reduces the levels of bacteria in the oral cavity.
It is helpful to avoid habits that dry out the mouth, such as alcohol and tobacco, as well as to stimulate saliva production by chewing sugarless gum. Also relevant is the control and treatment of other chronic diseases.
In general, the prognosis for salivary gland infections is usually good. However, as we have already said, Seeing a doctor if you suspect this condition is always your best bet.
The post Salivary Gland Infection: Causes and Treatments first appeared in research-school.