Diagnosis of Mumps

By  , Expert Content
Jul 18, 2012

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Mumps is diagnosed clinically based on certain signs and symptoms (parotid swelling on one or both sides) and findings of physical examination.

Medical history: The doctor will take a detailed history of your symptoms. Some of the questions that the doctor may ask include:

  • Have you been in contact with a person with mumps
  • Have you been immunised with mumps vaccine
  • When did the swelling start
  • Have you had swelling of the gland any time in the past
  • Do you have any other symptoms such as fever, body pain, malaise, headache

Physical examination: During physical examination the doctor will check the swollen parotid gland for warmth and tenderness, i.e. pain on touch. The gland is warm and it pains upon touch, and may be painful on eating, swallowing, and talking.  As the gland is just below the ears, when it gets swollen the ear on that side gets slightly upturned. Parotid gland on one or both the sides may be affected. In most cases salivary gland on both sides of the face are affected. Both the glands may be involved at the same time or in some cases swelling of one gland may start after the swelling on first side is decreasing.

If the symptoms and findings of physical examination are not clear the doctor will try to rule out other medical conditions that can have similar signs or symptoms. Some of the conditions which can cause swelling of parotid gland include:

  • flu
  • parotitis (inflammation of parotid gland by some other virus)
  • local infection such as cellulitis, bacterial infection of the parotid glands
  • some cancers such as parotid gland tumor, leukaemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease
  • some systemic diseases such as tuberculosis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), sarcoidosis, Sjogren's syndrome.
  • diabetes
  • pregnancy.

Laboratory tests: In most cases lab tests are not required to diagnose mumps. If the diagnosis is doubtful the doctor may do tests. Tests which may be done include virus culture or a blood test to detect mumps antibodies.

  • Antibody testing: Infection with mumps virus causes production of antibodies. Antibodies are protein produced by the immune system in response to a germ. The antibodies help the body to fight the infection. Antibodies are also formed in response to vaccination. Testing the type of antibody and the level of antibody can help to diagnose mumps infection.
  • Viral isolation: Mumps virus can be detected by culture of body fluid sample. Besides culture, mumps virus can be detected by isolating the virus's genetic material (RT-PCR) from body fluid sample.



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