What are the causes and complications of mumps?
What causes mumps?
Mumps is a virus, therefore the cause of the condition is the mumps virus. It is very contagious and spreads easily via infected saliva. The virus is contracted through breathing in the infected saliva when an infected person sneezes or coughs. It can also be contracted through sharing a glass or other utensils with an infected person.
What are the complications of mumps?
The complications from mumps are rare but can be potentially serious. The following complications listed have been known to arise in certain cases of mumps.
Inflammation of the:
- Testicles – When one or both of the testicles become inflamed, this is known as orchitis. It is a very painful condition, however, it is unlikely to lead to sterility, although sterility can be a result in extremely rare cases. Orchitis is often caused by mumps, however, it can be managed through the use of cold packs being placed on the testicles over the course of the day. The doctor may also recommend that painkillers are prescribed if necessary.
- Pancreas – Upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting is known as pancreatitis – the swelling of the pancreas which is the organ located in the abdominal cavity. If this condition is induced by mumps, it is normally a temporary condition.
- Breasts and ovaries – Females who are yet to reach puberty may suffer from inflammation of the breasts, which is known as mastitis, or inflammation of the ovaries, known as oophoritis. The inflammation can sometimes be a painful experience, however, these conditions do not cause harm to the breasts or ovaries. The issue comes in when a woman is pregnant which may result in a higher chance of suffering from a miscarriage – however, there is still a large amount of speculation around mumps leading to miscarriages and the theory is yet to be proven.
- Brain – Being a viral infection, mumps can result in the inflammation of the brain which can lead to a number of neurological issues which may, in turn, be life-threatening. Two of these potentially fatal conditions are encephalitis or meningitis. Encephalitis is a condition resulting in the inflammation of the brain itself. Meningitis is the swelling of the fluid and membranes around the spinal cord and brain and occurs when mumps spreads through the blood stream and infects the central nervous system – it is an inflammation of the meninges, which is a collective word for the membranes that surround the brain and central nervous system (spinal cord). These three membranes are known as the arachnoid mater, pia mater and the dura mater.
In the case of mumps, meningitis develops when the virus spreads to the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, infecting and inflaming them. Meningitis can result in a fever, vomiting, feeling confused and drowsy, severe headaches and a stiff neck, as well as a number of other symptoms.
Other rare complications
- Hearing loss – In some rare cases, hearing loss can be caused by mumps. In roughly five in every 10,000 cases, mumps can result in the permanent loss of one’s hearing. This is due to the virus damaging the structure of the inner ear (known as the cochlea) that is responsible for facilitating hearing.