Bulimia Can Cause Parotid Gland Enlargement

Bulimia nervosa is a debilitating eating disorder marked by an obsession with weight loss and compulsive bingeing and purging behaviors. Purging behaviors in people with bulimia nervosa can lead to the development of a wide range of serious physical and psychological symptoms. In this article, we’ll examine one of the lesser-known symptoms of bulimia nervosa, the impact of purging on parotid gland enlargement.

What is the Parotid Gland?

The parotid gland is the largest of the body’s three salivary glands. The parotid gland is partially responsible for the secretion of saliva prior to eating. The enzymes in salivary gland secretion are responsible for lubricating the mouth, throat, and digestive tract.

How Does Bulimia Nervosa Affect the Parotid Gland?

The primary cause of parotid gland enlargement in people with bulimia nervosa is the compulsion to self-induce vomiting in order to purge after eating. When a person is vomiting multiple times every day, it forces gastric acid from the stomach to move up the digestive tract, damaging the tissue lining of the mouth and esophagus. To prevent further tissue lining damage, the parotid glands will begin secreting greater amounts of salvia to act as lubrication. Because purging is such a frequent occurrence for people with bulimia, the parotid gland can quickly become overworked, leading to acute or sustained enlargement.

Is Parotid Gland Enlargement Dangerous?

When assessed in isolation, parotid gland enlargement is not a dangerous condition. However, bulimia nervosa, a potential underlying cause of parotid gland enlargement, is extremely dangerous and necessitates immediate treatment. Remember, without adequate food and nutrient intake, the body will not be able to repair the damage caused by long-term binging and purging.

If left untreated, people with bulimia nervosa are at high risk of a wide range of life-threatening complications, including suicide, seizures, and heart failure. In most cases, breaking the binging and purging cycle of bulimia nervosa will require dietary therapy, psychological counseling, and some prescribed medications.

Treatment Options for Parotid Gland Enlargement

When a person can break their binging and purging patterns, their parotid glands are not induced to secrete unnecessary amounts of saliva. Therefore, in most cases, enlarged parotid glands will return to their regular size after several weeks of regular eating.

If a person’s parotid glands still remain enlarged following a prolonged change in eating habits, doctors may need to conduct a total superficial parotidectomy to surgically remove the affected portion of the salivary gland.

Sources: Osborne Head & Neck Institute, Semantics Scholar, Eating Disorder Hope
Photo: Pixabay

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