Parotid Gland Swelling: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

women with Parotid Gland Swelling
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Key Takeaways

  • Parotid gland swelling is when the gland by your jaw gets bigger due to infections like bacteria or viruses. It shows signs like fever and trouble moving your face.
  • Healthcare providers can tell if you have it by using different imaging techniques. They will give medicines like antibiotics and antivirals to treat it. Keeping your mouth clean and avoiding certain foods is also important.
  • To avoid this swelling, make sure to keep your mouth clean and stay away from foods that can make it worse. If you don’t get help, it can lead to bigger infections and problems including the development of abscesses, the spread of the infection to neighboring areas, and the occurrence of cellulitis or sepsis.

Let’s look closely at parotid gland swelling, which happens when the gland over the jawline on our face gets inflamed and larger. We will learn about why this happens, the signs like fever and difficulty chewing, how doctors find out if you have it, and the best ways to treat it. Bacteria and viruses like Staphylococcus Aureus and Paramyxovirus can cause this swelling.

It’s crucial to keep a good eye on what you eat. Take care of your oral hygiene. If not treated, it can cause severe symptoms.

What is Parotid Gland Swelling?

The parotid gland constitutes one of the trio of salivary glands situated on our facial region, positioned over the jawline anterior to our earlobes. Parotid gland swelling occurs when the noticeable inflammation along with a bulge can be noticed from causes like bacterial, viral, or fungal.

Parotid gland swelling is also a parotid infection called Parotitis / Sialadenitis.

The function of the parotid gland is to produce saliva and dump it into the mouth to ease the chewing and swallowing process in eating through a parotid duct. This duct starts from the parotid gland and ends in the buccal cavity on the tongue.

Parotid swelling is usually unilateral (one side), although bilateral involvement is seen in 15–25% of cases. The disease usually occurs in debilitated, dehydrated patients with poor oral hygiene.

Does heat help a blocked salivary gland? Consult with Online Doctor

What causes the parotid gland to swell?

The parotid gland can get swollen or inflamed for mostly bacterial and sometimes viral/fungal reasons. Let’s discuss all the causes in detail.

Bacterial causes of the swollen parotid gland

Parotitis is mainly caused by the bacterias Staphylococcus Aureus or just Staph. It mainly affects people with weak immune systems, giving opportunities for diseases like parotitis to occur in the parotid gland.

Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Streptococcus)is known to cause various infections, including strep throat, and in some cases, it can also lead to parotitis.

Haemophilus influenzae (bacterium) can cause infections in various parts of the body, especially the parotid glands. It’s more common in children and can lead to acute parotitis.

Viral causes of the swollen parotid gland

Paramyxovirus is a virus that causes mumps which is a parotid gland infection. It appears as a bulged skin accompanied by inflammation.

Cytomegalo virus will also cause diseases and salivary gland infections like Parotitis.

Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV): This virus will present itself with parotid gland swellings accompanied by fever and lethargic feeling. Primary symptoms of EBV are sore throat and salivary gland inflammation.

Coxsackievirus: Coxsackie virus is the type of enterovirus that will affect the areas like mouth, feet, and sometimes hands. This virus will occasionally affect the salivary glands by infecting the parotid gland and causing inflammation accompanies by pain.

Influenza Virus: The influenza virus can sometimes cause discomforting symptoms in the parotid gland leading to excessive production of salivary as well as parotid gland swelling.

Mixed infections

Sometimes more than one type of bacteria or virus causes parotitis infection in the parotid gland due to a compromised immune system eg EBV Epstein-Barr Virus and Cytomegalo Virus.

Poor oral hygiene

Individuals with poor oral hygiene also play a significant role in causing parotitis, where different bacteria grow and cause infection.

What are the signs and symptoms of parotid gland swelling?

The parotid gland will be swollen along with the bulge in one of the sides of the facial area as the first sign of parotid gland infection. Other signs and symptoms include

  • Fever accompanied by chills.
  • Nausea.
  • Fatigue and lethargy.
  • Metal-like taste in the mouth round the clock.
  • Stomach cramps and increased GUT motility.
  • Dryness in the mouth.
  • Difficulty in chewing and swallowing.
  • Limited movement of facial muscles while speaking or laughing.
  • Redness on the side of swelling.

How do you diagnose parotitis?

Parotitis can be diagnosed easily by looking at the swelling and bulging area over the jaw on the cheeks. Pus discharge in the saliva can only be noticed. Healthcare providers also diagnose it by gently pressing the bulged and inflamed area from ear lobes to cheeks to notice pus discharge in the skin.

Diagnosing techniques including imaging are also used by Healthcare providers.

According to NIH: Salivary gland imaging can be performed by several modalities including MRI, CT, ultrasonography, scintigraphy, and sialography

How do you treat parotid inflammation?

Inflammation in unilateral parotitis usually goes on its own without the need for any medical treatment. but in severe and persistent cases:

If the pus is noticeable in the saliva that indicates bacterial infections and will only be treated by Antibiotics. After treating the infections the inflammation caused by infection will also be cured.

Viral Parotid will be treated by the antivirals and the inflammation will be gone after the treatment of infection.

Do you need antibiotics for swollen salivary glands? Ask an Online Doctor

How do you clear a clogged salivary gland at home?

Consider using over-the-counter medications for pain relief and inflammation like acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

Ice packs can be used at the site of inflammation for 10 to 20 minutes. Take the precaution of keeping a cloth between an ice pack and face skin to avoid ice burn.

Consume ice chips or frozen treats like Popsicles which will help in early treating and reducing inflammation.

What antibiotic is good for salivary gland infection?

Here are three antibiotics commonly used for treating sialadenitis, along with their doses:

Amoxicillin (Amoxil ): Often prescribed at 500 to 1,000 mg every 8 hours for adults.
Cephalexin (Keflex – 500MG TABLET): Typically given at a dose of 500 mg every 6 hours for adults.
Clindamycin (DALACIN C PHOSPHATE): Commonly administered at 150 mg to 300 mg every 6 hours for adults.

It’s good to get yourself checked for the exact dose and drug of choice for the proper diagnosis and treatment.

What foods should you avoid with a salivary gland infection?

Opt for easily chewed soft foods as they won’t irritate or increase the pain and inflammation in the area.
Avoid eating food that might mimic saliva production, e.g., spicy or citrus foods, fried or fruit. It will mimic the blocked or inflamed gland making the pain worse.

Skip acidic items like citrus fruits and vinegar-based products. Avoid hard candies, nuts, and crunchy veggies to prevent irritation.

Limit sugary and high-salt foods to avoid bacterial growth and dehydration. It’s wise to skip alcohol and caffeine, which can hinder healing.

What happens if a salivary gland infection is left untreated?

Neglecting the treatment of a salivary gland infection can result in various complications such as the development of abscesses, the spread of the infection to neighboring areas, and the occurrence of cellulitis or sepsis.

Chronic infection, obstruction of salivary ducts, the formation of granulomas, and vulnerability to secondary infections are also potential outcomes.

Consult a Doctor

Parotitis unilateral inflammation usually goes on its own in 2 -3 days, If not, it definitely indicates the underlying cause and infection which is treatable with the proper medications and precautions. It’s good to consult your healthcare provider to decrease the chances of any severe condition development.

Right diagnosing and treatment can prevent you from any life-threatening severe medical conditions and diseases.

FAQs About Parotid Gland Swelling

Are swollen parotid glands serious?

Yes, it is if it stays more than a week. Usually, inflammation and swelling in parotid glands go on their own without treatment. Still, if it doesn’t, it’s good to get yourself checked by your healthcare provider to avoid any life-threatening conditions like cancer and the development of abscesses.

Why is my parotid gland swollen on one side?

It can be the infection as the occurrence of parotitis (Infection of the parotid gland) usually occurs on one side of the face called Unilateral parotitis.

How long does parotid gland swelling last?

If it’s harmless, It will last for a week. In case of bacterial or viral infection, it will stay until you start treating with over-the-counter inflammation medications like NSAIDs.

How contagious is parotitis?

A salivary gland infection (Parotid gland infection) can give rise to various complexities, including the emergence of abscesses, the expansion of infection to nearby areas, and the potential development of cellulitis or sepsis. Additionally, the situation could lead to enduring disease, blockage of salivary ducts, and the creation of granulomas.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

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  • Wood J, Toll EC, Hall F, Mahadevan M. Juvenile recurrent parotitis: Review and proposed management algorithm. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2021 Mar;142:110617. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2021.110617. Epub 2021 Jan 4. PMID: 33421670.
  • Gadodia A, Bhalla AS, Sharma R, Thakar A, Parshad R. Bilateral parotid swelling: a radiological review. Dentomaxillofac Radiol. 2011 Oct;40(7):403-14. doi: 10.1259/dmfr/17889378. PMID: 21960397; PMCID: PMC3528147.
  • Adhikari R, Soni A. Submandibular Sialadenitis and Sialadenosis. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562211/
  • Merck Manuals. Sialadenitis

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