Salivary Gland Disease Sialadenosis

Sialadenosis is a medical term used to describe enlarged salivary glands when there is no infection, inflammation or tumor present.

The parotids — the largest salivary glands — are found in the upper cheeks in front of your ears, and are the salivary glands most often affected by sialadenosis. However, unexplained enlarged salivary glands have also been found in the floor of the mouth, where the submandibular glands are.

What Causes Sialadenosis?

Sialadenosis doesn’t have many symptoms beyond a swollen salivary gland. The enlarged salivary glands aren’t even necessarily painful and don’t change in response to eating. They are soft and non-tender, or rubbery.

Sialadenosis usually first appears in adulthood, and can last for decades. Men and women are equally likely to develop sialadenosis.

Although a clear cause for sialadenosis has not been identified, some interesting links have been established. In many cases of sialadenosis, the disease has been associated with:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Breastfeeding
  • Bulimia
  • Chemical exposure
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney failure
  • Nutritional disorders or vitamin deficiencies like pellagra
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Thyroid problems.

Some scientists have suggested that sialadenosis may be linked to neuropathy of the autonomic nerves reaching the salivary glands. This, in turn, leads to irregular secretory activity, which results in a swollen salivary gland.

Diagnosing and Treating Sialadenosis

Prior to a diagnosis of sialadenosis, doctors usually try to rule out all other causes of enlarged salivary glands, such as a tumor, salivary gland stone or Sjogren’s syndrome. Extensive blood tests are often part of this process, along with a biopsy of the swollen salivary gland. Sialadenosis that is related to another condition, such as an eating disorder or diabetes, usually resolves when the underlying disease is treated.

If the sialadenosis symptoms are mild, no treatment is usually necessary. Even with a swollen salivary gland, the flow and consistency of saliva are often still able to meet digestive and oral health needs. In cases where the enlarged salivary glands cause facial disfigurement, doctors sometimes remove part or all of the swollen salivary gland.

Sialadenosis is often a symptom of a system-wide illness. Therefore, doctors usually suggest that treating the underlying issues — such as alcoholism, diabetes or an eating disorder — can help improve the enlarged salivary glands.


Harvard Medical School. (2010). Salivary gland disorders. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from