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Parotid Gland Enlargement

The salivary glands make saliva and release it into the mouth. There are three pairs of relatively large, major salivary glands, including the parotid glands. They are located in the upper part of each cheek, close to the ear. The duct of each parotid gland empties onto the inside of the cheek, near the molars (back teeth) of the upper jaw. Parotid gland enlargement is not unusual in people with bulimia; the incidence of parotid gland swelling has been reported to occur in 10 to 15 percent of bulimics.

The severity of the parotid gland enlargement is related to the frequency and duration of purging.

Parotid gland enlargement in bulimics may secrete abnormally high levels of amylase, an enzyme that digests carbohydrates. Normally the swollen salivary glands that give the appearance of “chipmunk-like cheeks” go down when the binge purging behavior ceases. It usually takes several weeks to see a change. The swelling may continue for months, and in rare cases, may be permanent.