Mumps: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Complications and Prevention

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus affecting the parotid glands or salivary glands.

Updated: November 3, 2019


Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus affecting the parotid glands or salivary glands. There are three sets of salivary glands on each side of your face, located behind and below your ears which are responsible for producing saliva.
Swelling of the salivary glands is the main symptom of mumps. It can spread from one person to another through saliva, nasal secretions, and close personal contact. It is transmitted only from human to human. Mumps has a rapid spread among members living in close quarters. The virus most commonly is spread directly from one person to another through respiratory droplets expelled during sneezing or coughing.

Symptoms of Mumps:

Usually within two weeks of exposure to the virus, the symptoms appears. Symptoms similar to flu such as fatigue, body aches, headache, loss of appetite and low grade fever will occur in the beginning. Over the next few days these symptoms are followed by a high fever of 103°F and swelling of the salivary glands. The glands may swell gradually and become painful periodically. From the time you come into contact with the virus to when your parotid glands swell is the contagious period. You can pass the virus to others during this period. Most people who contract mumps show symptoms of the virus. However, some people doesn't experience any symptoms or they have very few symptoms.

Diagnosis of Mumps:

The diagnosis of mumps is primarily based on its symptoms. Laboratory studies are generally done to support the clinical impression. The purpose of these laboratory studies is to exclude other viruses that may give a similar clinical presentation. It can also help excluding the conditions that are similarly presenting parotid gland enlargement such as salivary gland cancer, Sjogren's syndrome, IgG-4 related disease, sarcoidosis, side effects of thiazide diuretics. However these conditions are very infrequent.

Treatment for Mumps:

Mumps doesn't respond to antibiotics or other medications as it is caused by virus. However, treating the symptoms can make you more comfortable while you are sick. These may include:

  • Take rest when you feel weak or tired.
  • Over the counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be taken for fever and body pain.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration due to fever.
  • As chewing may be painful when your glands are swollen, eat a soft diet of soup, yogurt, and other foods that are not hard to chew.
  • Avoid acidic foods and beverages that may cause more pain and irritation in your salivary glands
  • Applying ice packs can help soothing swollen glands.

As you are no longer contagious after a week of diagnosing mumps, you can return to work or school. You should be feeling better after 10 days although runs its course in a couple of weeks. Having the virus once protects you against becoming infected again. Therefore the chance of getting it again is very less if you have it once.

Complications of Mumps:

Complications from mumps are rare, but can be serious if left untreated. Mostly it affects the salivary glands. However, it can also cause inflammation in other areas of the body, including the brain and reproductive organs.
The inflammation of the testicles due to mumps is known as Orchitis. Orchitis pain can be managed by placing cold packs on the testicles several times per day. Prescription painkillers will be recommended by your doctor if necessary. In rare cases, orchitis can cause sterility.
Swelling of the ovaries may happen if a female gets infected with mumps. The inflammation can be painful but does'’t harm the eggs of a woman. However, if a woman contracts mumps during pregnancy, there is a higher risk of miscarriage.
Left untreated, Mumps may lead to fatal conditions such as meningitis or encephalitis. Meningitis is swelling of the membranes around your spinal cord and brain and Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. If you experience seizures, loss of consciousness, or severe headaches while you have mumps immediately contact your doctor.
Mumps can cause pancreatitis which is inflammation of the pancreas. This is a temporary condition with symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
The mumps virus can also leads to permanent hearing loss which is very rare. The virus damages the cochlea, one of the structures in your inner ear that facilitates hearing.

Prevention:

Mumps can be prevented by vaccination. A combine vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is available for everyone who are at risk of getting this disease.
Most infants and children receive two shots of MMR. The first MMR shot is generally given between the ages of 12 and 15 months and a second vaccination is necessary for children between 4 and 6 years old.
Adults who were born before 1957 and haven't yet contracted mumps should be vaccinated. People who work in a high risk environment, such as a hospital or school, should always be vaccinated against mumps.
However, people who have compromised immune systems, are allergic to gelatin or neomycin, or are pregnant, shouldn't receive the MMR vaccine. Consult your family doctor about an immunization schedule for you and your children.


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