Author(s): Boyce HW, Bakheet MR
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Abstract Saliva is produced by the major salivary glands (parotid, submandibular, and sublingual), as well as several smaller glands. Salivary flow can be altered by multiple entities. There is much written regarding xerostomia ("dry mouth"), the condition related to inhibited or decreased salivary flow. This condition is widely recognized in certain systemic diseases, particularly Sjögren syndrome, diabetes mellitus, after anticholinergic, antihistamine, and decongestant medications, as well as states of enhanced sympathetic drive, such as anxiety or emotional disturbances and various other psychosocial conditions. On the other hand, sialorrhea or ptyalism, the condition of increased salivary flow, is rarely discussed in the clinical literature. Sialorrhea can occur with various neurologic disorders, infections, the secretory phase of the menstrual cycle, heavy metal poisoning, Wilson disease, Angelman syndrome, as well as a relatively unknown condition called idiopathic paroxysmal sialorrhea. Normal salivation may be altered by drugs (such as clozapine, risperidone, nitrazepam, lithium, and bethanecol) that have a cholinergic effect that induces sialorrhea. This report focuses on sialorrhea as it relates to disorders of the oropharynx and esophagus. The patient typically recognizes a problem with excessive "foamy mucus" but does not understand its origin. Infections and obstruction are the most common oropharyngeal causes. Increased salivary flow occurs as a typically subtle manifestation of gastroesophageal reflux disease. This occurrence is referred to as water brash. Idiopathic achalasia and megaesophagus due to the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi are regularly associated with sialorrhea. Esophageal obstruction (foreign body, cancer, or stricture formation), infection, and nasogastric intubation are the more common conditions associated with the symptomatic sequelae of sialorrhea. Sialorrhea-related respiratory and pulmonary complications are greatest in those with a diminished sensation of salivary flow and hypopharyngeal retention. Extremes of age, the chronically debilitated, or those in chronic care facilities, especially associated with cerebrovascular accidents and esophageal cancer, typically comprise this population. For the patient with an intact awareness of saliva, sialorrhea can present with significant social stigmas. Occult drooling or regular oral evacuation into a tissue or "spit cup" is socially incapacitating. This report provides a review of the physiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and therapeutic options for sialorrhea. Physicians and other healthcare professionals should recognize the importance of sialorrhea as a possible indicator or complication of a variety of disease states of the oropharynx and esophagus as well as its impact on the patient's physical and social quality of life.
This article was published in J Clin Gastroenterol
and referenced in Biochemistry & Physiology: Open Access