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Salivary gland infection or “sialoadenitis”

There are 3 major salivary glands

  • Parotid glands are the largest.
  • Submandibular glands.
  • Sublingual glands.

Salivary gland infection, also known as sialoadenitis, usually affects the parotid glands located in front of and below the ears, and submaxillary glands located below the jaw

Causes

The most common causes of acute infection are bacterial infections. Viruses can also be a cause, with typical bilateral involvement. Infections are more common in patients with

  • Inadequate hydration, being more common in older people, or intercurrent illness.
  • Calculi (stones) in the salivary glands that produce an obstruction of the saliva drainage duct.
  • Dental pieces in bad condition (with infection of the submaxillary gland).
  • Diseases with oral dryness such as Sjögren’s syndrome.
  • Patients who have received radiotherapy on the region or radioactive iodine for thyroid cancer.

Symptoms

The patient with acute sialodenitis may experience

  • Pain, swelling and erythema of the gland and surrounding tissues.
  • Fever or general malaise.
  • Bad taste in the mouth due to purulent drainage into the oral cavity.

Diagnosis

The physician will perform a detailed history and physical examination of the oral cavity and palpation of the salivary glands. In some cases it may be necessary to perform a CT scan (computed tomography) or cervical ultrasound

Treatment

Hydration and oral antibiotics are the initial management of sialadenitis, which resolves a high percentage of cases. In some more advanced infections it will be necessary to admit the patient for the administration of intravenous antibiotics and complementary tests. If the infection does not improve after 48 hours and an abscess (collection of pus) is detected in the CT scan, surgical intervention for incision and drainage may be necessary to prevent the spread of the infection to the cervical level.