Parotitis is an infection and inflammation of the parotid glands, the most visible salivary glands. Salivary glands produce saliva necessary for maintaining a clean and healthy mouth. The parotid glands are located in front of each ear. Parotitis can occur at any age, but is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 9.
What Causes Parotitis?
There are many possible causes, including:
Viral infections: Viruses are among the most common causes. The viruses most often responsible include mumps, coxsackievirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and HIV.
Bacterial infections: Bacteria can also cause be a cause. The bacteria that are the most common culprits include streptococcus and staphylococcus.
Parasitic infections: Parasites can sometimes cause parotitis. The parasites that most often cause parotitis include Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum.
Allergies: Allergies can sometimes trigger an inflammation of the salivary glands.
Autoimmune disorders: Autoimmune disorders occur when the body's immune system attacks healthy cells. Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that specifically affects the salivary glands and can lead to this condition too.
Ductal blockage: This can be caused by stones, tumors, or other growths that block the ducts that carry saliva from the gland to the mouth.
Parotitis symptoms include pain and swelling in front of or below the ear, fever, chills, headache, sore throat, and difficulty opening the mouth. If left untreated, it can lead to dehydration and malnutrition due to difficulty eating and drinking. In some cases, it can also cause abscesses or pancreatitis.
While there are many possible causes of parotitis, viral infections are the most common cause. Parotitis is most commonly seen in children between the ages of 5 and 9, but can occur at any age. If you think you or your child may have parotitis, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible so that proper treatment can be started.