What Causes a Parotid Gland to Swell?


Quick Answer

Blocked salivary ducts, bacterial infections, some viral infections, cysts, and benign or malignant tumors cause the parotid glands to swell, states WebMD. The parotid glands are salivary glands inside of the cheeks, and swelling most often occurs when there are problems with the salivary duct in the mouth.

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Full Answer

Stones, or crystallized saliva deposits, are the most common cause of parotid gland swelling. The stones prevent saliva from flowing into the mouth and saliva accumulates in the glands. If the blockage is not removed, a bacterial infection, such as sialadenitis, may occur, which causes a painful lump to develop in the gland and creates a putrid-tasting drainage in the mouth. If left untreated, bacterial infections may cause high fevers, severe pain and abscess, warns WebMD.

Bacterial infections often affect parotid glands in either the right or left side of the mouth, WebMD reports. Viruses usually affect both sides. Viral infections, such as the flu and mumps may cause the parotid glands to swell. The Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, Coxsackievirus and HIV also contribute to salivary gland swelling, states WebMD, as do cysts, tumors and Sjorgen’s syndrome.

Treatments for swollen parotid glands vary. Measures to remove blockages include manually removing the stone, applying warm compresses and eating hard candies to increase the flow of saliva. If the stone does not dislodge, surgery may be required to remove it, explains WebMD. Cysts and benign or malignant tumors are removed with surgery, and radiation and chemotherapy may be required for cancerous tumors. Bacterial infections and other problems may be treated with medications and antibiotics.

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