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Chronic sialadenitis.jpg
Micrograph showing chronic sialadenitis. H&E stain.

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Hamid Qazi, MD, BSc [2] Mahda Alihashemi M.D. [3]

Synonyms and keywords:Sialadenitis, salivary gland inflammation


Sialadenitis is the inflammation of a salivary gland. The causes of sialadenitis include bacterial and viral infections, such as mumps and HIV, obstruction from stones or radiation, and autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren's syndrome. The complications of sialadenitis include recurrence, abscess, and chronic sialadenitis. Sialadenitis must be differentiated from other diseases that can cause swelling in the salivary glands, such as sialolithiasis, human immunodeficiency virus, radiation, and systemic diseases such as, sarcoidosis, and sjögren's syndrome. History from the patient will reveal symptoms of sialadenitis that include fever, redness of overlying skin, pain, and difficulty in opening the mouth. The diagnosis of choice is a high resolution CT scan. Sialoendoscopy can be used in the diagnosis of small stones and differentiate them from polyps. Conservative treatment is the first line of therapy in the most patients and it involves Hydration, applying moist heat, massaging the gland, duct milking, discontinuation of medication that can decrease the saliva flow, such as the TCAs (because of their anticholinergic effects). Also, antibiotics can be used in the case of superimposed infection. Preferred regimens are Dicloxacillin 500 mg q 6h PO for 7 to 10 days, or Cephalexin 500 mg q 6h PO for 7 to 10 days.

Historical Perspective

The historical perspective of sialadenitis is as follows:[1]

  • In 17th century, major salivary gland ductal system in anatomical human studies was first reported.
  • In 1990, , Konigsberger et al. performed the first successful salivary endoscopy.[2]
  • In 2004, Zenk et al. reported the use of semirigid sialendoscope in different types of obstructive salivary disorders.[3]
  • In 2006, Nahlieli et al. described sialendoscopy in the management of radioiodine sialadenitis.[4]


  • There is no established system for the classification of sialadenitis, but it can be classified according to location of the stone.[5]
Gland %
Submandibular glands 80 to 90 
Parotid glands 6 to 20
Sublinguals or minor salivary glands 1 to 2


  • Sialadenitis is the inflammation of a salivary gland. [6]
  • Swelling is usually present in this condition.
  • Acute sialadenitis may be caused by viral or bacterial infection[7]
    • Parotid and submandibular glands are more involved in acute sialadenitis. Approximately 10% sialadenitis cases are related to the involvement of submandibular gland.
  • Chronic sialadenitis is caused by repeated episodes of inflammation and finally it progresses in to salivary gland dysfunction.


Common causes of sialadenitis include the following:

Bacterial and viral infections:[8]


Autoimmune disorders:

Differentiating sialadenitis from Other Diseases

Diseases Symptoms and sign Laboratory Findings Other Findings
Onset Unilateral/Bilateral Pain Swelling Tenderness Purulent discharge Common site of involvement ESR Leukocytosis
Sialolithiasis Acute Unilateral + + + - Submandibular gland ↑/NL ↑/NL Radio-opaque in X-ray
Acute bacterial sialadenitis Acute Unilateral + + + + Parotid Other sign of infection may be present
Chronic bacterial sialadenitis Chronic Unilateral + + - +/- Parotid Other sign of infection may be present
Viral sialadenitis Acute Bilateral + + + - Parotid Coryza symptoms
Human immunodeficiency virus Acute Bilateral + + - - Parotid NL NL Other systemic findings of HIV/ check ELISA
 Radiation sialadenitis Acute Unilateral + + + - Depends on the treatment field NL NL History of radiation in the salivary gland site
Salivary gland tumors Subacute Unilateral - + - - Parotid ↑/NL ↑/NL Advance age
Sarcoidosis Gradual Bilateral - + - - Parotid Systemic findings in other organs
Sjögren's syndrome Gradual Bilateral +/- + - - Parotid or submandibular glands ↑/NL ↑/NL Dry eye/dry mouth
Malnutrition Gradual Bilateral +/- + - - Parotid NL NL Systemic findings in other organs

Epidemiology and Demographics

  • The incidence of acute sialadenitis is approximately 275 per 100,000 individuals in United Kingdom.[18]
  • Patients of all age groups may develop sialadenitis.
  • Sialadenitis commonly affects older and dehydrated patients.

Risk Factors

Common Risk Factors

Common risk factors in the development of sialolithisis which can lead to sialadenitis include:[19]


There is insufficient evidence to recommend routine screening for sialadenitis.

Natural History, Complications, and Prognosis

Natural History

  • If left untreated, patients with sialadeitis may progress to develop secondary infection and chronic sialadenitis including gland atrophy.[21]



  • Prognosis is generally good with fluid management and antimicrobial therapy, but edema in the gland may persist for several weeks.[16]


Diagnostic Criteria

Acute sialadenitis is a clinical diagnosis and presents with pain, swelling, and redness of skin.[23]

History and Symptoms

The most common symptoms of sialadenitis include fever and pain.[22]

  • A positive history of pain, swelling, overlying skin redness, and hard lump is suggestive of sialadenitis.

Physical Examination

Vital Signs

  • Vital signs are usually normal, but fever may be seen in sialadenititis as a complication of sialolithiasis.[7]


Normal salivary gland is spongy.

In sialadenitis:[24][25]

  • Tenderness of the involved gland
  • Palpable hard lump near the end of the involved duct or under the tongue in submandibular duct stone.
    • Stones, sometimes may be felt smooth or irregular.
  • In total obstruction, no saliva is being produced from the duct.
  • Erythema of the floor of the mouth
  • Pus discharging from the duct
  • Stone in the minor salivary glands can be felt as a small nodule
  • Stones are typically rock hard and small; they may be smooth or irregular. They are most commonly felt within the ductal system.


Laboratory Findings

  • There are no diagnostic laboratory findings associated with sialadenitis. In the case of superimposed inflammation and infection, high ESR or leukocytosis may be seen.
  • Duct discharge should be used for culture.[26]


There are no ECG findings associated with sialadenitis.



  • There are no ultrasound findings associated with acute sialadenitis.

CT scan

  • There are no CT scan findings associated with acute sialadenitis. However, a CT scan may be helpful in the diagnosis of complications of sialadenitis, which include abscess.[28][23]
    • Most stones contain enough calcium, so they can be visible on non-contrast CT scan.
  • The following results are seen in acute obstruction of the salivary duct due to sialadenitis after administration of contrast:
    • The gland may appear enlarged
    • Hyperdensity of gland with stranding
  • In chronic sialadenitis, fat atrophy and reduction in salivary gland parenchymal volume may be seen.

Other Imaging Findings

Sialography is contraindicated in active infection of the involved gland.

Other Diagnostic Studies

  • There are no other diagnostic studies associated with sialadenitis.


Medical Therapy

  • Most cases are easily treated with conservative medical management. Acute symptoms resolve within 1 week; however, edema in the area may last for several weeks.[29]
  • Antibiotics usage in the case of superimposed infection:[23]
    • Preferred regimen (1): Dicloxacillin 500 mg q 6h PO for 7 to 10 days.
    • Preferred regimen (2): Cephalexin 500 mg q 6h PO for 7 to 10 days.
  • If the patients clinics did not change in five days of using above antibiotics, change to:
  • Many cases of sialadenitis cannot be cured by using medical therapy alone; invasive, or open surgery methods can be used for salivary gland stones. The interventional methods are discussed in the sialadenitis surgery page.


  • Certain individuals with chronic bacterial infections who do not respond to appropriate conservative and antibiotic measures may require either radiation or removal of the affected gland to control its symptoms.
  • The mainstay of treatment for acute siladenitis is medical therapy. Surgery is not the first-line treatment option for patients with acute siladenitis. Surgery is usually reserved for patients with abscess that do not respond to medical therapy.[23]
  • Surgical resection of involved gland in chronic bacterial sialadenitis may be considered if it does not respond to medical therapy. [22]

Surgical intervention 

For surgical intervention of sialolithiasis please click here.

Primary Prevention

  • Effective measures for the primary prevention of sialadenitis include:[19][29][23]
    • Healthy oral care regimen ( brushing teeth)
    • Increased water intake
  • There are no available vaccines against sialolithiasis

Secondary Prevention

Effective measures for the secondary prevention of acute sialadenitis include hygiene and repeated massaging of the gland when tenderness had subsided. [22][17][1][29][30]


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  2. Lydiatt, Daniel D.; Bucher, Gregory S. (2012). "The historical evolution of the understanding of the submandibular and sublingual salivary glands". Clinical Anatomy. 25 (1): 2–11. doi:10.1002/ca.22007. ISSN 0897-3806.
  3. Zenk, J; Koch, M; Bozzato, A; Iro, H (2004). "Sialoscopy—initial experiences with a new endoscope". British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 42 (4): 293–298. doi:10.1016/j.bjoms.2004.03.006. ISSN 0266-4356.
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  9. Maier H, Tisch M (2010). "[Bacterial sialadenitis]". HNO (in German). 58 (3): 229–36. doi:10.1007/s00106-009-2078-x. PMID 20204311.
  10. Delli K, Spijkervet FK, Vissink A (2014). "Salivary gland diseases: infections, sialolithiasis and mucoceles". Monogr Oral Sci. 24: 135–48. doi:10.1159/000358794. PMID 24862601.
  11. Delli K, Spijkervet FK, Vissink A (2014). "Salivary gland diseases: infections, sialolithiasis and mucoceles". Monogr Oral Sci. 24: 135–48. doi:10.1159/000358794. PMID 24862601.
  12. Capaccio P, Torretta S, Pignataro L, Koch M (2017). "Salivary lithotripsy in the era of sialendoscopy". Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 37 (2): 113–121. doi:10.14639/0392-100X-1600. PMC 5463518. PMID 28516973.
  13. Wallace E, Tauzin M, Hagan J, Schaitkin B, Walvekar RR (2010). "Management of giant sialoliths: review of the literature and preliminary experience with interventional sialendoscopy". Laryngoscope. 120 (10): 1974–8. doi:10.1002/lary.21082. PMID 20824782.
  14. Wallace E, Tauzin M, Hagan J, Schaitkin B, Walvekar RR (2010). "Management of giant sialoliths: review of the literature and preliminary experience with interventional sialendoscopy". Laryngoscope. 120 (10): 1974–8. doi:10.1002/lary.21082. PMID 20824782.
  15. Loury, MC (2006). "Salivary gland disorder". Advanced Otolaryngology.
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  17. 17.0 17.1 Silvers AR, Som PM (1998). "Salivary glands". Radiol. Clin. North Am. 36 (5): 941–66, vi. PMID 9747195.
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