Salivary gland disorders are defined as those “conditions that lead to swelling or pain in the saliva producing tissues around the mouth”. The salivary glands are an important part of the framework of the human body as they are responsible for secreting saliva which aids in the digestion of food and protecting the teeth against any sort of bacterial infection. When an infection forms inside the gland or if there is an accumulation of stones, it could lead to complications such as blocking of the opening into the mouth. If there is a blockage, it could severely affect the digestion of food.
Diagnosis of salivary gland disorders
The diagnosis process of most of the salivary gland disorders depends mainly on the cause of the condition. The symptoms of the patient are taken into consideration and then diagnostic tests are carried out to confirm the condition.
When it comes to salivary gland cancer, some of the general symptoms that are observed in a patient are lumps in the face or mouth, ongoing pain in the facial area, numbness, trouble and pain while swallowing food and weakness in the facial muscles. The doctor is likely to ask the patient’s medical history to get a much informed opinion about the condition. A physical exam is likely to be conducted where the doctor is going to check for enlarged lymph nodes to get an idea about the spread of the cancer cells, if any. X-ray tests of the mouth and the jaws are conducted in order to look for signs of tumors. If cancer is diagnosed, additional X-ray tests of the lungs are also taken to ensure the spread of cancer into the organ. Computed tomography (CT) scans are also taken in order to get a cross-section of images of the facial and jaw area. MRI scans are used for more detailed and clear analysis of the tissues responsible for the spread of cancer. These scans use radio waves and strong magnetic waves.
When there is a decreased production of saliva along with accumulation of saliva deposits containing calcium, stones are formed which blocks the opening of the salivary gland into the mouth. The diagnosis process is very much the same where the doctor may first go for a detailed physical exam and then assess the symptoms experienced by the patient. Subsequently, X-ray tests and MRI scans are taken in order to get a detailed idea about the position of the stones. Ultrasound tests are also carried out where doctors can evaluate the blood flow through arteries and veins through sound waves. The treatment process depends on how big or small the stones are.
Mumps is a condition where there is a painful swelling of the salivary glands due to many causes. Over the years, with acute immunization measures, the cases of mumps have been reduced to a considerable extent. As part of diagnosis, tests are usually not carried out to confirm mumps. A physical examination is enough to give doctors a clear idea. The examination is based on the symptoms that the patient expresses. Some of the symptoms associated with the condition are pain in the facial area, acute swelling of the parotid gland, headache, and sore throat and fever. In men, some additional symptoms are the swelling of the testicles and scrotal sacs. A thorough physical examination conducted by the doctor can arrive at the conclusion that the condition is mumps. Treatment procedures are not very intensive as frequent application of heat or ice packs combined with certain pain killers can treat the disease in no time.
Read more articles on Health A-Z