Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This is really weird, but, at least I Can Eat Again!

The strangest thing happened to me this weekend.  I noticed Sunday at noon when we were eating that a gland under my right ear starting swelling up and hurting like crazy. It felt like when you eat something really, really sour and your saliva glands cramp up. I couldn't eat much because it felt like something was going to explode. 

About an hour later, the swelling was completely gone, and there was no  pain. I figured I must have had a lymph node or something that was being irritated by  my chewing, somehow related to the colds and flus that are going around lately. 

In the evening, at the square dance party, I couldn't eat more than a few bites of my plate of finger food because that gland, or whatever it was, immediately swelled up into a huge knot, noticeably visible to anyone looking at me. Plus it hurt like crazy.

When I got home I consulted Dr. Google and discovered a few things I never knew. One, the gland I could feel under my ear is a salivary gland, one of several in the ear/jaw/neck area, and it is actually pretty large. See that "parotid gland"? That's the culprit.


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Two,  I learned that it is possible to get a stone in your salivary gland, sort of like a kidney stone.  This means that saliva can't drain properly because something is plugged up by the stone, so when you eat, and the gland goes into high gear dispensing saliva, the saliva backs up, causing swelling and pain. Treatment requires a scan or x-ray of some sort to pinpoint the exact location of the stone, and then a doctor inserts a needle to aspirate the stone. Or a surgeon cuts your face open. Neither option sounded very fun, or cheap.

Three, I learned that mumps is actually a viral infection of the salivary glands. Did you know that? I didn't. Had no idea. But related to that was some better news, which is that the salivary glands can be affected by a viral infection in your body, and exhibit the same symptoms as a stone: swelling and pain when you eat.  The assumption is that when your body has fought off the virus, your gland will go back to normal.

I decided I liked this diagnosis better than the other one, and decided to run with it till further events merited a different one. Plus, as I mentioned, a nasty cold has been going around our house, and the flu is in evidence as well. Obviously I have been exposed to a virus of some sort.

So. I have spent three days treating myself like I have a bad cold or the flu. Plenty of rest. Plenty of liquids. Vitamin C, Cold&Flu Drops, etc, etc.  Each meal time I would eat until the swelling and pain stopped me. Sometimes only a few bites, especially on  Monday.

By Tuesday, I had sort of gotten the hang of it, and found I could eat a few bites every half hour or so without causing too much agony.  It was not ideal, and I was hoping my theory was correct, because if it didn't get better I was going to lose weight pretty fast, not to mention facing the prospect of an expensive and probably painful medical procedure.

But guess what? Today I can eat a whole meal normally. Rejoice and Sing! After the meal, I can feel a tiny bit of swelling in my gland and a sensation of something, as if the gland is working hard. Otherwise, nothing. 

I am SO glad. After three days of involuntary sort-of fasting, I was getting pretty hungry.  And today I found I was exhausted and irritable, although large helpings of LovelyDaughter's Boston Cream Pie was a definite help, as was a quiet, lazy afternoon.  Tomorrow?  Bake bread. Plan MB3's birthday party. Go to the bank. Pay bills.  Make shopping bags, if time and energy permit.  Gotta make up for lost time. But in the meantime I think I'll have another piece of cake and go to bed early!<