Description and Possible Medical Problems

When you feel a swollen area under both sides of your jaw, you probably know you have swollen glands. You also know they’re no fun. Because swollen glands are caused by an infection, patience, antibiotics, and more patience are all necessary for treatment. So it helps if you view your prescribed rest period as a well-deserved break from the usual grind and use it as an excuse to catch up on the soaps or that stack of paperback novels you never got around to last summer.

If, however, you think you have swollen glands but only one side of your face is affected, you probably don’t have swollen glands at all. Instead, you may actually have a problem with your salivary gland. The enlargement may also appear in front of your ear or directly under your chin. Regardless of the location, the swelling will probably not be painful. There are three salivary glands: the submandibular gland, which is located under the front of your tongue; the sublingual gland, located behind the submandibular gland; and the parotid gland, which runs from your jawbone to your temple.

If only one side of your face or the area directly under your chin is swollen, the swelling is probably caused by a small stone in one of the salivary ducts. Other telltale signs of this condition include a dry mouth or if the swelling grows when you’re eating. In fact, some patients who have an enlarged salivary gland caused by a stone have told me they can actually feel the gland swell up when they begin to eat.

Though they are extremely uncommon, tumors of the salivary glands can develop, most often in either the parotid or the submandibular gland, and on only one side of the face. Unlike a swelling that is caused by a stone in the salivary duct, a tumor grows slowly over the course of several years; it rarely becomes malignant. Women between the ages of 40 and 70 are most likely to develop a tumor of the salivary gland. However, if you ignore it and don’t seek medical attention, it can eventually become malignant and spread to the rest of your body.

Enlarged salivary glands that appear on both sides of the face frequently occur in people who have a long history of alcohol abuse. The salivary glands on both sides of the face can also swell up in people who suffer from bulimia, as their constant, forceful vomiting causes these glands to overreact and swell up.

Treatment

If you think you have an enlarged salivary gland, sucking on a lemon may cause the stone to pop out. If this doesn’t work, call your doctor. He may want to try to push the stone out of the gland manually, which will reduce the swelling and solve your problem.

If, however, the swelling doesn’t go away, you should see your doctor. If he determines that you have a tumor, he’ll recommend that it be surgically removed. But most likely, the enlargement is due to a “stone.”

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