Mumps, also known as ‘epidemic parotitis’, was once a fairly common condition that through vaccinations has generally become less common. Before vaccination mumps was a common childhood disease often spread through schools.
It still occurs however in individuals who have not had vaccinations and is a common health issue in the third world.
The main symptom of mumps is what gives it its name – a painful swelling of the salivary glands (particularly the parotid gland) which are found around the lower jaw and neck. This results in this area becoming enlarged and makes chewing painful and often makes speaking muffled and difficult. This is called ‘parotid inflammation’ and occurs in 70% of infections and 95% of infections with symptoms – it is possible to be infected with mumps without the inflammation for which it is famous and in some cases without any symptoms at all.
In some cases other symptoms may occur such as painful swelling of the testicles I men and potentially a rash called ‘orchitis’ (this rash is also found on the genitals). In children the symptoms are normally not as severe while they can be more serious in teenagers and adults.
Other symptoms also include fever and headache, as well as a dry mouth (caused partly by the swelling), sore face and or ears – again due to the inflammation, and in rare cases complete loss of voice. Lack of appetite can be a prodromal symptom meaning that it can indicate the onset of mmps. As mentioned, up to 20% of those with mumps will not show any symptoms at all. The disease is self-limiting, normally with a limited life span. In some cases however it will infect other organ systems and can occasionally lead to abortion, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), hearing loss or in only very rare cases – death. In most cases the patient will recover without intervention.
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