Blocked Salivary Glands
The salivary glands, when operating optimally, produce about a litre of saliva each day. This liquid helps to remove bacteria from the mouth, aid in digestion and keep the throat and oesophagus moist. A blocked salivary gland, however, can cause serious problems.
Symptoms of Blocked Salivary Glands
The salivary glands throughout the face and neck are responsible for both the production and delivery of saliva to the mouth and throat and when blocked they are usually simple to identify.
The most common symptom of a blocked salivary gland is dry mouth. If saliva is not flowing through the gland ducts and into the mouth and throat, the mouth may begin to feel quite dry. Other symptoms can include swollen glands that are tender to touch, the presence of a headache, nausea, and fever (associated with infection), or even the presence of a foul-tasting liquid within the mouth.
Blocked Salivary Gland Causes
While identifying the presence of a blocked salivary gland is rather simple, identifying the cause can be challenging. There are several issues that can cause the ducts connected to salivary glands to become clogged or blocked. One of the most common causes of blocked salivary glands is the presence of salivary stones or sialoliths. The presence of stones is commonly due to the crystallisation of saliva within the gland, developing in much the same way as kidney stones.
The development of cysts within the ducts or on the glandular surface can also cause blockage. Another common cause of salivary blockage is the development of an infection that attacks the salivary glands and causes them to swell. Mumps, for example, can cause salivary gland blockage in about 30 to 40 percent of cases. Other causes include autoimmune disease or tumours.
Treatment Options for Blocked Salivary Gland
Treatment options for a blocked salivary gland will vary depending on the specific cause of the gland blockage. If a blocked salivary gland is caused by an infection or illness, such as mumps, the problem can be treated medically. Ice packs applied to the lower jaw and upper neck may help to reduce the swelling and allow saliva to flow more freely. If salivary gland blockage is caused by cysts or salivary gland stones, surgery may be required to remove the blockage and allow saliva to flow freely once again.
Regardless of the cause, salivary gland blockage is usually treatable. Consult a doctor if you experience swelling, tenderness, dry mouth, fever, or other symptoms that indicate a problem with the salivary gland.
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