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Salivary gland problems and treatments

Salivary glands are the organs responsible for saliva production, but they can also cause some health problems. We talk about these ailments and their treatments in this article.

1) What are salivary glands?

The salivary glands are the organs responsible for the production of saliva, a liquid that has a digestive and antibacterial function. There are six major salivary glands: two parotid, two submandibular and two sublingual, and multiple minor glands in the lips, cheeks, mouth and throat.


2) What disorders can there be in the salivary gland?

Although there are many people who never have any problems with these organs, some patients do report ailments. The most common are mumps, sialolithiasis, sialadenitis, mucocele and ranula.

2A) Parotitis, a common problem in the salivary gland

Parotitis, a condition commonly known as mumps, is a contagious disease caused by the Paramyxoviridae virus and is located in one or both parotid glands. This can cause inflammation of these glands, pain when chewing or swallowing, fever, headaches, muscle aches, and even loss of appetite. It is transmitted by inhaling airborne saliva droplets from infected people.


2A.a) How to treat parotitis or mumps

There is no effective treatment against mumps, beyond the consumption of paracetamol. This will reduce pain and fever, making the illness more bearable. Parotitis can be prevented with the triple viral vaccine, which provides immunity against mumps, rubella and measles.


2B) Sialolithiasis, stones in the salivary gland

We speak of sialolithiasis when stones form in the drainage ducts of the salivary glands or in the gland itself. These can be generated when the concentration of water in saliva decreases or due to the consumption of certain medications. The most common symptoms are swelling of the gland, erythema, continuous pain or pain during palpation, as well as a decrease or absence of salivary flow.


2B.a) How is sialolithias treated?

A different treatment will be done depending on the dimension of the stone. Generally, a sialoendoscopy is performed, which consists of inserting a device through the salivary duct until it reaches the stone and extracting it with forceps. If the stone is too large, surgery may be necessary, either to access or even to remove the gland in more severe cases.


2C) Sialadenitis, inflammation of the salivary gland

Sialadenitis is an inflammation of the salivary glands. It is generally caused by sialolithiasis that becomes infected or by low activity of these organs, although it can also be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. The most common symptoms are fever, inflammation, pain and erythema, and in cases of infection pus may also come out.


2C.a) Treatment of sialadenitis

The treatment of sialadenitis consists of eliminating what is causing the problem and fighting the infection using antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

2D) Mucocele and ranula, two problems in the salivary gland

Mucocele is a benign cystic lesion, relatively common and with a tendency to recur, which is caused by an obstruction or extravasation of the minor salivary glands. Mucocele usually appear on the lower lip, although they can also be found on the palate, cheek and tongue. The ranula is a mucocele that forms under the tongue, forming a larger volume mass. The main cause is trauma that can rupture the salivary gland duct.


2D.a) How to treat mucocele and ranula

Mucoceles can usually be ignored as they tend to rupture spontaneously and heal on their own. However, this lesion can become chronic or reappear frequently in some patients, in which case the solution would be to perform a small surgical intervention to eliminate it. Ranulas can also disappear on their own, although they may require removal of the salivary gland or an additional surgical procedure if they affect more deeply or are recurrent. It is important to note that they are benign cysts.

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