The parotid gland, the so-called parotid, is located on the left and right in front of the ear in the back of the cheek. Humans have many small and three large salivary glands. The parotid gland is the largest salivary gland in humans. There are several disorders of the parotid gland, including inflammation of the parotid gland. Parotitis can be caused by bacterial or viral infections. Through its duct, the parotid gland has direct access to the oral cavity. This can cause inflammation. The danger increases when the excretory duct is narrowed by salivary stones. As the salivary flow is blocked, bacteria accumulate here and can result in inflammatory processes.
People with immunodeficiency or inadequate hydration are more susceptible to bacterial parotid inflammation. A viral inflammation is the known mumps, which is triggered by the mumps virus. Less common are parotid inflammation caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The causes and triggers of parotid inflammation are manifold. When eating, the (back) cheek area swells, this is often an indication of parotitis. Due to possible complications, such as meningitis or one-sided deafness in mumps virus, a doctor should always be consulted for parotitis. With appropriate treatment, these complications can be easily prevented.
In the context of inflammatory processes, swellings of the parotid gland are often very painful. The swelling is usually one-sided. An exception is the mumps virus, which shows a bilateral swelling. The swelling can be different. Sometimes it shows up as a small egg and sometimes the swelling is spread over a larger area. The swollen area is usually red. There are also painless swellings in the context of diabetes, diabetes mellitus, and in the context of thyroid overfunction. In addition, certain medications can cause swelling of the parotid gland. In addition, ulcers and tumors can swell the parotid gland. Such a parotid gland cancer should be examined by a doctor and clarified.
As the parotid gland is surrounded by a layer of connective tissue, it presses on nerves and nerve tracts when swelling occurs. This can lead to immense pain and functional failures. In parotid inflammation, there is usually severe pressure pain before and under the ear. When opening the mouth, the pain often increases and restricts the mouth. Due to the proximity to the jaw and the teeth, the pain can spread there. In addition, throat and headaches can develop. When eating, the pain usually increases, as it leads to an increase in saliva production, which increases the pressure. As a result, food intake is often severely impaired.
As part of inflammatory processes of the parotid gland occurs in addition to general malaise often fever. In bacterial infections, the fever is often high. In viral infections, however, it often manifests itself slightly pronounced. When the parotid gland inflammation messenger substances of the immune system, called cytokines are released and thus increase the target value of body temperature. The pathogens and foreign substances, so-called pyrogens, increase the release of the messengers. These messengers are not only involved in the immune response, but also affect the regulation of body temperature by helping to release the hormone prostaglandin E2. This hormone then enters the "vegatative control center in the brain", the so-called hypothalamus. Here, accompanied by other mechanisms, set the target body temperature. When this happens, the previous "normal" body temperature is perceived as "too cold". As a result, the heat loss of the body is reduced and it leads, for example, to icy fingers. In addition, the body tries to produce increased heat and reacts in the form of chills, with the aim of reaching the newly set target body temperature. The measurement of body temperature indicates - despite visible freezing - an increased value. Once the inflammatory reaction of the parotid gland subsides and the setpoint returns to normal, then the increased body temperature triggers the opposite reactions. It comes to sweats, with the aim to return to normal baseline. Whether and how much a person affected with parotid fever fever is very individual.
In a bacterial inflammation of the parotid gland usually produces a purulent discharge. This pus can also reach the oral cavity in some cases. Affected then notice often a very unpleasant taste in the mouth. In a viral inflammation, the secretion is usually clear to cloudy.
A dysphagia with a lack of chewing ability can cause parotid inflammation. By chewing less, this first leads to decreased salivation and the colonization of bacteria is favored. On the other hand, it is also possible that a parotitis causes a swallowing disorder. Due to pain and restricted movement of the mouth and jaw, restricted mouth opening, and sore throat, swallowing of saliva or food may be limited. The swelling of the parotid gland can also lead to compression and injury of the facial nerve, the facial nerve. In this case, among other things, the complete mouth closure may be impaired. Since the oral closure plays an important role in the swallowing process, paralysis of the facial nerve, among other things, can promote a swallowing disorder.