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Parotitis

Autoimmune diseases can affect nearly every organ by producing autoantibodies (antibodies against ‘self”). When these autoantibodies target the exocrine glands (mucous-producing glands), they underproduce (in the case of salivary glands)  saliva. The exocrine glands include the salivary glands that surround the mouth.

These glands produce the saliva used to moisten your mouth, initiate digestion and help protect  teeth from decay. The largest of the salivary gland, the parotid glands, are located on either side of the face, in front under and behind the ear, draining the saliva they produce in to the mouth.

The dark, dry mouth is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.  Calcium stones can also exist, blocking the flow of saliva from the parotid gland to the mouth. If there are bacteria and the passage of saliva is blocked, infection can develop in the parotid glands: parotitis.

Parotitis is difficult to diagnose through physical examination; and it is not uncommon for the condition to be misdiagnosed as mumps. But, when mumps are diagnosed several time in a year, further work-up is called for.

This condition is quite painful especially on eating. People who have infectious parotitis, quickly learn to avoid lemons and tomatoes which stimulate salivation and bring about pain. However, patients who get parotitis learn that parotitis can sometimes be PREVENTED by sucking on sour candies and stimulating salivation.

One of the 2 parotid glands

The pain of parotitis can be alleviated with acetaminophen or other pain relievers, prescription or non-prescription. Warm, moist compresses are also used. The swelling, the chipmunk cheeks (!) will decrease as infection subsides.

The infection is often treated with antibiotics; sometimes, only after a parotid tumor is ruled out. For repeated, severe cases of parotitis, removal of the parotid gland may be considered. I say considered, because the trigeminal (facial) nerve is in the area, making this surgery risky; not life-threatening, but risking facial palsy.

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Salivary Gland Infection (mademan.com)

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Lupus and oral dryness-xerostomia

Do you have a dry mouth or difficulty swallowing? Does your mouth feel like it’s been stuffed with cotton balls and you can barely speak? If so, I’ll guess that you don’t stray far from home without a water bottle.

Normally, saliva constantly bathes the teeth, ridding it of food particles and preventing bacteria from lodging in dental plaque, taking up residence and thriving in the warm, dark, moist environment of the mouth.

Once bacteria take hold in the mouth, they cause cavities, bad breath, gingivitis, result in abscesses; this can result in the need for expensive dental work.

Unfortunately, autoimmune diseases often target the mucous membranes and salivary glands, decreasing saliva production. When this happens, bacteria thrive and mucous membranes become very tender, easily torn, and extremely sensitive. Also, in the absence of adequate saliva, plaque forms, builds up and harbors bacteria making dental caries common, even with the best oral hygiene.

Other oral complications from lupus might be bleeding gums, gingivitis, and some patients get oral thrush. About 95% of lupus patients have a dry mouth, xerostomia; requiring that ‘lupies’ pay close attention to dental care, including regular brushing with a soft toothbrush and flossing and regular dental check-ups.

Also, because of the dark, warm environment of a dry mouth, painful infections can develop in salivary glands (usually the parotid glands) and your appearance is much like a chipmunk that has over-stuffed for the winterPainful sores can develop in the dry mouth. Lips tend to be very dry, crack easily; and the dryness is not helped very much by an increase in drinking water. Lip balms are a constant companion in your purse, car; everywhere!

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