Should I see a doctor?
Yes, always consult a doctor if you think you have a problem involving your salivary glands. The doctor will be able to get a good idea of what might be the problem by listening to you and examining you. They may then wish to arrange some tests.
What tests might I have for a salivary gland disorder?
An ultrasound is often the first investigation for lumps in the salivary gland. This helps establish the type of swelling it is and gives an idea if it is likely to be caused by a stone or a tumour, for example.
If you are thought to have an infection, you may have a swab or a sample of the fluid in your mouth taken. (In the UK, mumps is a notifiable disease, so the diagnosis must be confirmed by the local Health Protection Unit, who will provide a testing kit.) Blood tests may also be needed to help establish the type of infection.
Sialography is a special type of X-ray of the salivary glands and ducts. It involves injecting a chemical into the salivary duct to show it up on the X-ray. It is particularly useful for finding stones in the ducts or glands.
If an ultrasound shows a suspected tumour, further scans such as an MRI or CT scan may be useful. An ultrasound or CT scan can also help guide a biopsy. In this procedure a sample of the swollen tissue is removed for examination under a microscope. This test would be used if a tumour were suspected from the results of other initial tests.
Tests on your saliva and tears are used to diagnose Sjögren's syndrome. Specific blood tests may also be helpful.
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