• Mumps is a childhood disease, but it can occur in adults. Its clinical name is epidemic parotitis. Mumps is caused by a virus and is spread by inhalation of infected droplets. The affected person becomes contagious 1 day before the symptoms appear, is most contagious for another 3 days, and then becomes less contagious as the swelling goes down.

    Signs and Symptoms

    • Swollen, painful salivary glands;
    • Fever;
    • Weakness and fatigue;
    • Possibly, inflammation of the pancreas, testes, ovaries, or brain

    The Diagnosis

    The symptoms of mumps usually appear 2 to 3 weeks after the virus infection begins. The primary, and best known, symptom is swollen, painful salivary glands, causing the cheeks to puff out. In small children, fever is usually slight. If the affected person experiences headaches and becomes lethargic, inflammation of the brain and its lining may be present. Pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, and vomiting may indicate inflammation of the pancreas; lower abdominal pain in women may mean inflammation of the ovaries. This is often difficult to diagnose.

    In about a quarter of the men who contract mumps, inflammation of the testicles develops. Your physician can confirm this diagnosis.

    How Serious Is Mumps?

    Mumps make you quite uncomfortable but it is usually not a serious disease and rarely lasts more than 2 weeks. In some cases, however, encephalitis may develop, which is a serious complication of mumps and can lead to neurological symptoms and, rarely, death. Orchitis is uncomfortable and occasionally causes sterility.