There are a number of problems that can inhibit proper functioning of the salivary glands or block the small tubes (ducts), which prevents them from draining saliva. Some of these problems were discussed in the first part of this article. Below are some of the other common salivary gland issues:
Cysts in the salivary glands occur if infections, injuries, salivary stones or tumors block the flow of saliva. In some cases, infants are born with parotid gland cysts because of improper development of the baby’s ears. The appearance of cysts can be like a soft raised area or a blister. Cysts in the salivary glands might interfere with speaking and eating.
There are different kinds of tumours that can have an effect on the salivary glands. Tumours can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). Warthin’s tumour and pleomorphic adenomas are the two most common tumours.
Pleomorphic adenomas are the kind of tumour that usually affects the parotid glands. In some cases, this kind of tumour can also affect minor salivary glands and the submandibular gland. Usually, pleomorphic adenomas grow slowly and are painless. The tumour is benign (noncancerous) and it affects more women than men.
Affecting the parotid gland, Warthin’s tumor is also benign (noncancerous) and can grow on each side of the face. Men are more likely to develop this kind of tumour than women.
Although some tumours that affect the salivary glands are benign, there are other forms of tumours that can be malignant. Cancerous tumours include adenocystic carcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, malignant mixed tumour and low-grade polymorphous adenocarcinoma.
Sjögren’s syndrome is characterized by a chronic autoimmune condition wherein cells in the immune system of a person attack the salivary glands as well as other glands that produce moisture. This results in dry eyes and dry mouth.
Around fifty percent of the patients with this condition also suffer from enlargement of the salivary glands, which affects each side of the mouth, and is typically painless.
It is very important to determine the cause of the salivary gland problem before suggesting any treatment because treatment for any salivary gland problem depends on determining its cause.
Treatment of salivary gland stones as well as other duct blockages usually begins with methods such as warm compresses, removal of stones manually, or use of sour candies to increase the saliva flow. In case, these methods fail to treat the condition, surgery might be needed to get rid of the blockage or the affected gland.
Usually, surgery is needed to get rid of non-cancerous and cancerous tumours. Some non-cancerous tumours are treated with the help of radiation, which prevents them from coming back. There are some malignant tumours that need to be treated with chemotherapy and radiation.