You've heard of gallstones and kidney stones, but did you know that similar pebble-like deposits can form and grow in your salivary glands? They're called sialoliths, and they sound 100% godawful.
Photo Credit: María Juan via LWON
Over at Last Word On Nothing, Cassandra Willyard tells the harrowing tale of a sialolith-extraction lived through by one María Juan. Juan passed not one, but TWO of these stones over the course of a few years (a picture of the other stone, which bears a striking resemblance to a kernel of corn, appears in Willyard's piece.) The story is loaded with cringe-inducing gems like this (emphasis added):
María's official diagnosis was sialolithiasis, a fancy word for the formation of stones in the salivary gland. María's stone had worked its way into her salivary duct, and now it was wedged. These stones... aren't as nearly as common as those that form in the kidney or gallbladder, but they do occur. And no one knows exactly why. Dehydration has been blamed, as well as certain medications; the pH of the saliva may also play a role. How they form is something of a mystery too. Some suspect that these calcified pebbles grow around mucus, free-floating cells, or even bacteria. Sometimes the stones form around debris that has worked its way into the salivary gland. A paper in the rather obscure journal of Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology describes a 66-year-old man whose small sialolith contained a facial hair. Doctors have unearthed other foreign bodies too: a shrimp limb, a fish bone, a thorn.
Willyard's post also includes a link to this, "the best" (read: the absolute worst) video of a sialolith surgery on the Internet. Skip to the 10 minute mark to watch "the delivery" of this unusually large sialolith (what physicians sometimes call a "megalith"). Fair warning, this footage is not for the squeamish:
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go curl into a ball and weep.