In order to make a mumps diagnosis, a healthcare provider usually performs a physical exam and considers a person's symptoms, current medications, and family history. Sometimes, tests are used to help make the diagnosis, such as blood tests or a throat culture. Because other conditions can share the same signs as mumps, a doctor often considers these conditions and rules them out before definitively diagnosing mumps.
When diagnosing mumps, the doctor will likely ask a number of questions about a person's medical history, including questions about:
- Current medical conditions
- Current medications
- Family history of medical conditions.
The doctor will also perform a physical exam, looking for signs or symptoms of mumps. Diagnosing mumps can often be done just based on a person's symptoms and findings on the physical exam. If the doctor is unsure, however, he or she may order a blood test to look for antibodies to the mumps virus or a throat culture to look for the virus. He or she may also look for the mumps virus in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid) or in the urine.
During a mumps outbreak, diagnosing mumps is a fairly straightforward process. When a mumps case is more isolated, the doctor will consider several other medical conditions that can have similar signs or symptoms. Some of these conditions include:
- Influenza (the flu)
- Bacterial infection of the parotid glands
- Drug reaction, including a reaction to iodine known as "iodine mumps"
- Parotitis caused by other viruses
- Mononucleosis (mono)
- Cat-scratch disease
- Parotid gland tumor
- Hodgkin's disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus)
- Sjogren's syndrome.