The salivary glands are responsible for producing saliva. Problems with these vital structures can range from benign, such as a simple cyst or blockage, to cancerous tumors.
What are the Salivary Glands?
There are three major salivary glands – the parotid, sublingual and submandibular. They are responsible for producing saliva to moisten the mouth, protect the teeth from decay, and help digest food. They are small structures that are located in the mouth, lips and cheeks.
Types of Salivary Gland Disorders
Stones are a very common problem affecting the salivary glands. When they block saliva from flowing freely through the ducts, pain and swelling can occur. These symptoms often come and go, worsen with time, and are felt in just one gland. Blockages need to be cleared promptly to prevent an infection from developing.
When a duct in the mouth is blocked, a bacterial infection can set in. This causes a painful lump and pus drainage. It’s common among older adults with salivary stones and babies during their first few weeks of life. Left untreated, this infection can lead to severe pain, high fever and an abscess.
A few different viral infections can affect the salivary glands, including mumps and the flu. They may cause swelling, fever and a headache.
When an injury, infection, tumor or stone blocks saliva from flowing through the ducts, a cyst can develop. In some cases, cysts can interfere with eating and speaking.
Pleomorphic adenomas and Warthin’s tumors are the most common salivary gland tumors. They are slow-growing and benign. Very rarely, cancerous tumors may develop on the salivary glands.
Treatment Options For Salivary Gland Disorder
Treatment approaches for your salivary gland disorder will depend on the condition you are diagnosed with. Stones and other blockages are typically treated by manually removing the stones or performing surgery to address the blockage. In some cases, the removal of the affected gland may be necessary as well. Bacterial infections can usually be treated effectively with a course of antibiotics.
If you suffer from a salivary gland tumor, surgery is generally required to completely remove the growth. This is true whether the tumor is benign or malignant.