PDF: Swellings and red, white, and pigmented lesions


It is not unknown for people to discover and worry about oral lumps, but they usually first notice a lump because it becomes sore. Pathological causes include a range of different lesions, but neoplasms are most important (see earlier article).



Most salivary swellings are caused by mucoceles in minor glands in the lower lip. These are best removed surgically. In the major glands salivary duct obstruction is more common, but sialadenitis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and neoplasms are important causes to be excluded. It can be difficult to establish whether a salivary gland is genuinely swollen, especially in obese patients.

► PDF: Human papillomavirus in oral lesions

A useful guide to whether a patient has parotid enlargement is to look for outward deflection of the ear lobe, which is seen in true parotid swelling.

Management—Diagnosis is mainly clinical, but investigations such as serology for autoantibodies or HIV antibodies, liver function tests, and needle or open biopsy may be indicated. Treatment is of the underlying cause.

Crispian Scully, Stephen Porter
ABC of oral health