Mumps: Symptoms, Causes, Complications, and Treatments
Viral infections are relatively common in some countries, but the prevalence of these diseases is on a decline. Vaccines are being actively developed to help reduce the risk of children and adults becoming infected with viruses. Still, some diseases are still considered important, and education needs to be provided to individuals in countries that are at risk, as well as to individuals who may be traveling to a location where such a virus is a high-risk infectious disease.
Mumps is a disease that is not as common as it used to be. Widespread usage of the appropriate vaccines that protect against the disease has dramatically reduced the prevalence of the viral infection. There are, however, still reported cases of the disease every year. We would like to offer a comprehensive overview of this disease here, including the causes, risk factors, symptoms and, most importantly, how the disease can be effectively prevented.
What Is Mumps?
Mumps is a viral disease that develops when a person who is not immune to the disease is exposed to the virus associated with the infection. The disease does not cause symptoms to appear immediately and lead to a number of complications in some infected patients. A number of patients exposed to the mumps virus will go through the infection without knowing about it, as symptoms do not always develop in all patients.
This infectious disease primarily affects the salivary glands. Not all salivary glands are affected by the viral infection, however, but rather only a specific pair of these glands, known as the parotid glands. These glands are found in front of the patient’s ears, with some also located beneath the patient’s ears. The disease is most commonly associated with a noticeable swelling of the glands that are affected by the virus.
What Causes Mumps?
This disease is caused by a virus. The virus is known as the mumps virus or MuV. The mumps virus is part of a viral microorganism family known as the Paramyxoviridae, virus family. These are all negative-sense RNA viral species. The virus enters the body of an uninfected person and moves toward their salivary glands. Here, the virus starts to multiply, which causes the patient’s immune system to start attacking the virus. The result is usually an inflammation of the glands where the mumps virus has begun to multiply. In some patients, the virus may also attack the central nervous system, which may lead to various complications.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Mumps?
Mumps is most commonly associated with and recognizable with the inflammation that the viral infection causes. The inflammation mostly affects the neck and the cheeks of the infected patient. In most patients, only one side of their face will be affected by the virus, which means the salivary glands willonly swell up in the affected side. The other side of their face may remain normal. The swelling that occurs will also be painful.
Inflammation is the most common symptoms in patients who develop this viral infection, but this is not the only symptom that mumps can cause. In addition to the swelling that may occur in the patient’s neck, as well as their cheeks, the virus can also cause the following symptoms:
- Muscle soreness
- Dry mouth
- A loss of appetite
- Difficulty talking
- Swallowing and chewing problems
What Are The Possible Complications Of Mumps?
The majority of people who develop mumps will be able to recover fully. In most cases, the patient will start to feel better and make a full recovery within the first ten days following the appearance of their symptoms. There are, however, some rare complications that can develop in patients. The viral infection is much more likely to cause an adult patient to experience complications as compared to the risk among children who develops the disease.
There are six particular complications that patients should be concerned about, including:
- Orchitis, which is an inflammation that affects the testicles. This complication can only affect male patients and only those who have reached the age of puberty. In some rare cases, this complication may also cause problems with the patient’s fertility.
- Encephalitis, which is an inflammation that affects the patient’s brain.
- Mastitis, an inflammation of the breast tissue. This complication is mostly present among female patients who contract the mumps viral infection.
- Oophoritis, a term that refers to a swelling of the ovaries. This complication only affects female patients.
- Meningitis, a serious complication where the tissues that protect the patient’s spinal cord and the brain becomes inflamed. When this complication is not treated promptly, it may become life-threatening.
- Another possible complication that may develop in patients who develop mumps is deafness. This can be a permanent complication that may impair their ability to hear for the rest of their lives.
How Is Mumps Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of mumps is an important step in implementing appropriate treatments to help relieve symptoms, as well as speed up the recovery of the disease. A consultation with a physician is the first step to diagnosing the condition. The clinical presentation of mumps is usually sufficient for a physician to determine that a patient may be infected with the mumps virus. The salivary glands of the patients will be swollen.
Apart from looking at the clinical presentation of the patient’s symptoms – which would primarily include the swelling in their neck and cheeks, the physician will also consider other factors. In particular, the physician will consider if the patient has been vaccinated against the mumps viral infection in the past and whether they might have been at risk of exposure to the mumps virus.
In addition to a physical examination and the consideration of facts regarding the risk that the patient has of being infected with mumps, additional laboratory tests will usually also be ordered. These tests will help the physician confirm that the patient is infected with the mumps virus and that their symptoms are not caused by a different illness. In most cases, the physician will collect both a blood specimen and a swab specimen from the patient, which will be sent to a laboratory for further testing.
Can Mumps Be Treated?
The mumps viral infection has no cure, and no specific medications have been approved to be used in the treatment of mumps. The viral infection clears up in approximately one to two weeks in most patients. Certain remedies can help to speed up the recovery time of the patient. Certain pharmaceutical drugs can also be used to treat the symptoms that the patient is experiencing.
One of the most important parts of recovering from the mumps infection is to ensure the patient obtains an adequate amount of fluids. This will help to keep their body hydrated and help their body expel the virus from their system. Additionally, the patient should also get a lot of rest. Sleep is an important part of keeping the immune system running and will aid in the recovery from the disease.
The pain and inflammation can be treated with the use of medications like paracetamol or ibuprofen. Some patients may prefer to use aspirin, but this drug should not be provided to a patient if they are under the age of 16 years. Additionally, both cold and warm compresses can be applied directly to the glands that are swollen to reduce further the painful swelling that the virus causes.
How Can Mumps Be Prevented?
The prevalence of the mumps virus has declined significantly over the past few decades, but outbreaks still occur. There are also certain countries where the disease is still relatively common. It most countries, it is now recommended that all children be immunized against the mumps virus with an appropriate vaccination.
Children should be provided a vaccine against the mumps virus as the age of 12 months. A booster vaccine should also be provided to the child after they reach the age of three years. The vaccine used is called the MMR vaccine, which protects the child against mumps, measles and the rubella viral infection.
When a child is given the MMR vaccine, along with the booster, they will be protected against the mumps viral for the rest of their lives. The vaccine helps their immune system become immune to the virus. The vaccine is considered to be 95% effective in protecting against the mumps virus.
The mumps viral infection may not be widespread anymore but still occurs in a number of people each year. The disease can cause a number of serious complications. While there are no treatments approved specifically for this viral infection, certain home remedies have proven to be effective in speeding up recovery. Early diagnosis and implementation of appropriate treatment protocols can help to ease the symptoms.
Individuals who are in high-risk areas or planning to travel to a region with higher rates of the disease should ensure they get vaccinated. Fortunately, the vaccine has become popular in most countries, including Canada and the United States, and is often given to a child at a young age.