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Enlarged salivary glands can be painful and disfiguring. Many people have had mumps or know someone who has temporarily exhibited the ‘chipmunk cheek’ look of this virus. There are many causes of salivary gland swelling including infection, salivary duct blockage, tumors (benign and malignant) and as a result of viral and autoimmune diseases such as HIV.

There are three major pairs of salivary glands. These are the parotid glands, the submandibular glands and the sublingual glands. There are also hundreds of minor salivary glands located throughout the mucus lining of the mouth and throat. The parotid glands are located on the jaw, just under the ear.

These are the glands that typically swell during a mumps infection and cause facial disfigurement. The submandibular glands are located under the tongue and the sublingual glands are located in the floor of the mouth.

While enlargement can occur in any salivary gland, the parotid glands are the most obvious and can significantly alter appearance. Reducing the size of these glands is particularly important to HIV patients who want to protect their privacy while undergoing treatment for this disease.

HIV and salivary gland hypertrophy

There are approximately 1.2 million Americans with HIV and of those more than 50% experience abnormalities in the mouth, head or neck. Patients with HIV frequently develop swelling in the parotid glands as a result of their medication or as a result of inflammation. Swelling can occur on one or both sides of the jaw and can be uneven on one side. Reducing the size of these glands is both medically and cosmetically beneficial.

Salivary Gland Hypertrophy


If there are any abnormal conditions appearing in the mouth, neck, throat or ears, they should be investigated as soon as possible. In most cases these symptoms lead to infections or simple salivary duct blockages and are easily treated. Some of the more common symptoms of salivary gland hypertrophy are:

  • Painful swelling
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty eating, talking or opening the mouth
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Reduced definition in the jaw area
  • Diagnosis and treatment

There are several tests done to diagnose salivary gland enlargement. These include special blood tests, imaging tests such as CT or MRI, ultrasound and biopsy. Patients with HIV normally do not need further diagnosis as salivary gland hypertrophy is well documented as a potential side effect of medication. Treatment for salivary gland enlargement varies considerably depending of the cause. For infection related blockages, antibiotics are effective. In cases of decreased production of saliva, simply sucking sour hard candy may clear the ducts of any small stone-like blockages. For HIV patients, one of the most effective treatments is low dose radiation which can shrink the parotid gland back to a more normal size.

At the Beverly Hills Cancer Center we offer a full range of diagnostic and treatment options for those suffering from salivary gland hypertrophy, particularly as a result of HIV medication. Our low dose therapy for these patients has restored confidence and allowed them the privacy they seek as they deal with HIV.

At the Beverly Hills Cancer Center we strive to be on the cutting edge of radiation treatment delivery. Our radiation oncologists have developed a total familiarity with salivary gland hypertrophy and are happy to be able to offer treatments with this groundbreaking device to our patients. To find out if the salivary gland hypertrophy treatment in Los Angeles can help you, please call our office and set an appointment. We strive to provide you with the most cutting-edge, effective radiology Los Angeles has available.

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