The salivary glands are tissues located in your mouth and throat. Their primary function is to maintain oral and dental hygiene and aid chewing and digestion. Salivary glands also prevent dehydration, as they signal to the body to produce more fluid when the mouth is dry.
Sialadenitis is a condition where the salivary glands become inflamed and enlarged. There are both acute and chronic forms.
Symptoms of sialadenitis may include:
- Neck pain
- Drainage of yellow or white material into your mouth.
- Swelling of the neck below the ears or below your jaw
Causes of sialadenitis
Sialadenitis usually occurs as the result of a bacterial or viral infection. It may be divided into:
- Acute, lasting a few weeks
- Recurrent forms
Evaluation and Treatment
- Your doctor will ask for a complete medical history and will perform a thorough physical examination. Different diagnostic studies may be ordered, including imaging studies, lab tests and detailed physical examinations. These may include:
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Your doctor will recommend that you:
- Increase your fluid intake
- Suck on sour candies
- Apply warm compresses to the neck
- Antibiotics may be necessary if there is a bacterial infection. If there is no improvement, or there are recurrent infections, surgery may be required to remove the salivary gland.
Sialoliths are tiny stones that form inside the salivary glands. No one knows exactly why the stones begin to form inside the salivary glands, but there are certain risk factors including:
- Dehydration, which thickens the saliva
- Not eating much, which decreases the demand for saliva
- Medications that decrease saliva production, including certain antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, and psychiatric medications
Depending on its location, your doctor may be able to gently press such a stone out. If the stone is deeper within the duct, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it or the gland
If the stone causes a blockage within the salivary glands, it can lead to sialadenitis, a condition where the salivary glands become inflamed and enlarged. There are both acute and chronic forms.
Salivary Gland Tumors
Both benign and malignant tumors can grow in your salivary glands. No one knows exactly why the tumors begin to form inside the salivary glands, but certain risk factors can lead to them, including:
- Radiation exposure
- Long-term history of smoking
Most tumors are benign and are present for several months with little or no growth. Malignant tumors may cause facial nerve weakness, lymph node enlargement, or pain at the site of the tumor. Salivary gland tumors are usually are removed surgically. Malignant tumors often can be treated with surgery alone. However, large, aggressive tumors usually require radiation following surgery. Tumors located in difficult places to remove surgically are treated with radiation or chemotherapy in order to shrink them.
- Most tumors lie in the portion of the gland above the facial nerve, so the tumor can be removed without injury to the facial nerve. This is known as a superficial parotidectomy.
- When the tumor requires dissection both above and below the facial nerve, the procedure is called total parotidectomy.