Salivary gland disorders are mainly the problems that are associated with the malfunctioning of the salivary gland in a human body. Saliva is important in order to achieve various objectives such as lubricating the mouth, helping in the swallowing of food, protecting the teeth against bacterial infection and help in the overall digestion of food. Saliva is thus secreted by exocrine glands and such glands are known as salivary glands. If the gland becomes blocked and unable to secrete saliva, it leads to a variety of complications and disorders. Amylase is also an enzyme secreted by the salivary glands that converts starch into maltose.
Types of Salivary Glands
There are basically three types of salivary glands:
- Parotid glands – that make up 25% of the saliva secreted in the body which is drained into the mouth near the upper teeth.
- Sublingual gland – that make up about 5% of saliva secreted and that which drains into the floor of the mouth.
- Submandibular gland – The majority of the saliva, about 75%, is secreted by this gland and is made to drain from inside the mouth.
Some Salivary Gland Problems
Some of the problems associated with the salivary glands are:
- Salivary stones – Accumulation of crystallized saliva deposits inside the salivary glands can lead to sialoliths. The accumulation of the stones leads to blockage which in turn leads to swelling and consistent pain. The swelling has to be instantly diagnosed and cured or otherwise it could lead to rampant infection.
- Salivary gland infection – When the duct of the glands, mainly the parotid gland is blocked, it leads to possible infection by bacteria. The result is a painful lump and foul tasting pus releasing into the mouth from the gland.
- Infections – Swelling of the glands can also happen due to viral infections from foreign sources. The conditions in this case are mainly seen to be mumps and flu. Fever and insistent pain is often seen to accompany the swelling. With proper immunization measures, however, conditions like mumps have been consistently reduced.
- Cysts – Blockages in the salivary glands can also occur and in turn leading to cysts when there are infections or possible tumors.
- Tumors – Both benign as well as malignant tumors are reported in association with salivary glands. Pleomorphic adenomas and Warthin’s tumor are two most common tumor complications. Timely and proper treatment is a must in case of tumors.
- Sjogren’s syndrome – This is a chronic autoimmune disease where salivary glands are often attacked by certain cells which lead to dry mouth and dry eyes. Painless enlargement of the salivary glands has also been reported by certain patients in some cases.
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