Sialadenitis can be caused by a viral infection (such as mumps), bacterial infection, or an autoimmune disease such as Sjogren’s syndrome (see below). Bacterial infections can happen when the flow of saliva is blocked due to stones in the salivary duct or a narrowing of the duct. Dehydration can also cause bacterial infections by reducing saliva flow. Recent illness and the use of antihistamines, beta-blockers, or diuretics can lead to dehydration. Radioactive iodine (RAI), sometimes used for treatment after surgery of thyroid cancer, can also result in salivary gland scarring and sialadenitis because some of the radioactivity can be accumulated in the salivary glands.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease which effects salivary glands and the “lacrimal” glands of the eyes. This chronic inflammatory disorder causes decreased saliva production in the mouth and decreased tear production in the eyes. In addition to dry mouth and eyes, there may be symptoms of fatigue, muscle aches, or rashes. In extreme cases, Sjogren’s syndrome may affect the lungs, kidneys, liver, and nervous system. People with Sjogren’s syndrome may also have swelling of the parotid or submandibular glands, as well as an unexplained increase in dental cavities or tooth decay.
An ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist, may diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome based on persistent symptoms of dry eyes and/or mouth, parotid gland enlargement, and abnormal blood test results. A lip biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. Sjogren’s syndrome is treated conservatively with symptomatic relief. Oral rinses and hydration are advised along with lubricating eye drops.