Salivary Gland Disorders
The salivary glands are found in and around the mouth and throat. The major salivary glands are the parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands. The parotid secretes saliva near the upper teeth, the submandibular from under the tongue, and the sublingual through the floor of the mouth. Additionally, many other minor salivary glands are located in the lips,inner cheeks, and throat. Saliva aids in digestion, oral lubrication and hygiene, and protection against tooth decay.
Symptoms and Causes of Salivary Gland Disorders
Disorders of the salivary glands can cause dry mouth, pain, swelling, and tenderness. Many salivary gland disorders may be caused by underlying conditions or illness. Conditions that may affect the salivary glands may include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren's syndrome
Types of Salivary Gland Disorders
Salivary gland obstruction usually occurs because stones have formed within the glands, blocking the flow of saliva. Chemicals in the saliva may crystallize and form stones that create this blockage. This leads to swelling and pain and in some cases an infection may develop. If left untreated, the salivary glands may become abscessed.
Salivary gland infections may be caused by underlying conditions, and may cause pain and swelling. Mumps is a common salivary gland infection caused by a viral illness. Most people are immunized for the mumps infection as infants.
Secondary Infection from Lymph Nodes
Salivary glands may become infected from enlarged lymph nodes which are close in proximity within the neck and jaw. The lymph nodes are located in the upper neck and often become tender and swollen during a respiratory illness or common sore throat. Many lymph nodes are located within the parotid gland or near the submandibular glands. When these lymph nodes enlarge through infection, patients experience painful swelling in the salivary glands.
Tumors usually appear as enlargements of, or growths within the salivary glands. Benign tumors are usually painless and rarely involve more than one gland. Malignant salivary gland tumors may be painful and grow quickly. These tumors may cause loss of movement of part or all of the affected side of the face.
Treatment of Salivary Gland Disorders
Treatment of salivary gland disorders may involve treating the underlying condition or illness. Salivary gland disorders that are caused by infection may be treated with antibiotics and obstructed salivary glands may subside with increased fluid intake. In some cases, a doctor may use an instrument to open blocked ducts. If a mass has developed within the salivary gland, it may be surgically removed. Cancerous tumors that are removed may also be followed by additional radiation treatment.
Doctors will create a customized treatment plan for each individual condition.