What is Swollen Uvula?
Swollen uvula also termed as uvulitis is a condition whereby the uvula becomes red, puffy, and enlarged or swollen. The uvula is the flesh tissue that hangs at the back of the throat. It is part of the soft palate. It is said to contain connective tissues, racemose glands, muscular fibers and serous glands.2
While swollen uvula or uvulitis is commonly linked to strep throat, it could also arise due to other factors. The swelling could make the size of uvula to be many times its usual size. Inflamed uvula can affect adults and children regardless of race, gender, and other factors.
Although the swelling isn’t life threatening or serious, it can be uncomfortable and pretty annoying. Uvulitis may be caused by bacterial infections, viral infections, lifestyle factors, or even physical trauma.
Unknown to many, although tiny, the uvula carries out three very important functions. It is responsible for articulation of speech. It closes the nasal canal during the swallowing process thus preventing food from entering the breathing system. It also filters bacteria that would otherwise lead to digestive and respiratory complications should they enter the digestive and breathing system, respectively.
In most cases, the situation lasts a day or two and remedies naturally. There are however exceptional cases where swollen uvula can be detrimental and interrupt breathing, cause nasal congestion, make it excruciatingly painful to swallow anything and even cause choking and constant gagging..
Severity of obstruction in Swollen uvula. More the obstruction more the Effects/Complications
There are many factors that contribute to one having a swollen uvula. These factors include;
1. Hereditary angioneurotic edema
People affected by this hereditary condition have tendencies to have different body parts swell, the uvula included. It is causes by mutation of a certain gene.
They are the major cause of swollen uvula. The reaction resulting from the allergy may irritate the uvula and cause it to swell.
Allergies can result from ingesting, touching or breathing in allergens.Common food allergens include milk, fish, eggs, peanut, soy, wheat and meat. Other substances that can cause allergies are irritants such as dust and pollen, toxic chemicals or medication.
Alcohol can cause swollen uvula in two ways. The alcohol itself might cause irritation of the throat leading to swollen uvula. Alcohol also cause dehydration which causes uvulitis.
In the process of filtering viruses and bacteria to prevent respiratory and digestive diseases, the uvula can get infected. Common cold, Strep throat and such like infections cause the uvula to swell. Tonsillitis can also cause the uvula to swell.
Smoking dehydrates and irritates the throat thus causing uvula to swell.
6. Sleep apnea
This is a condition where the affected stops breathing for a while when asleep. It may happen several times and is very dangerous. It may be as a result of the muscles at the back of the mouth fail to work or the brain fails to communicate to the muscles to breathe.
7. Sexually transmitted diseases or oral thrush
Herpes and HPV lead to development of tiny bumps on the tongue , throat and sometimes the uvula.
The use of anesthesia often causes uvulitis . Most post-surgery patients have a swollen uvula for some days especially when the surgery involved the nose or mouth.
Intubation during surgery can cause uvula to swell. Surgical removal of tonsils may accidentally affect the uvula or irritate it.
10. Very hot or cold foods
Extremely hot or cold foods may irritate the uvula and cause it to swell.
11. Acid reflux or vomiting
Continuous or rather constant vomiting is irritating to the throat and may result in uvulitis.
12. Through the mouth – breathing or snoring
People who snore or breathe through the mouth expedite dehydration. A dry throat ultimately leads to irritation and swelling of the uvula.
Other causes that result in uvulitis include canker sores, throat cancer, glandular fever, lupus and nasal drip.
Signs and Symptoms
The first and obvious sign is the reddening and swelling of the uvula. Other symptoms and signs include:
- Sore throat
- Pain or difficulty when trying to swallow food or drinks
- Gagging or choking sensation. This is because the uvula swells, becomes elongated and puffy and touches the tongue causing one to choke.
- Breathing problems. The enlarged uvula may at times block the nasal canal causing breathing problems.
- Constant coughs
- Congestion in the nose
- Appearance of bumps or white spots on the uvula
- Drooling that is uncontrollable
- Hoarse voice
- Formation or secretion of pus
Diagnosis is done through a physical exam by the doctor. Blood tests are done to deduce the cause of the swollen uvula should a mouth, throat and nasal swab fail to identify the problem.
Treatment of uvulitis depends on the seriousness of the condition. The first step is however finding out the exact cause of the swollen uvula. Mild swollen uvula can be treated with simple home remedies while serious swollen uvula may even call for surgery.
- Consume cold drinks , ice chips or ice cream to soothe the throat.
- Drink enough amount of water to counteract the dehydration.
- Consume honey which not only serves as a lubricant but also as a natural antibacterial.
- Avoid coming into contact with or consuming allergens. This can be hard especially for yummy foods but it is totally worth the sacrifice.
- Gaggle salt water .
- Avoid smoking or situations and places that turn you into a passive smoker.
- Eat a lot of fruits to boost your immune system.
- Drink tea made from ginger which is a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Take in basal water so as to reduce irritation on the throat and uvula.
- Mouth guards can be put in place for people who snore or breathe through the mouth.
- Infections such as common cold can be treated by administering the proper medication. Curing of the infection automatically results in the uvula going back to its normal size.
- In severe cases corticosteroids can be used.
- Surgery can be carried out in situations where the swollen uvula cannot be treated using drugs or home remedies.
- CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) devices can be put in place for people with sleep apnea.
- Swollen Uvula. Available at https://www.belmarrahealth.com /swollen-uvula-causes-and-symptoms-treating-uvulitis/
- Swollen uvula. https://www.healthline.com / health/ swollen-uvula
- Uvulitis. https://www.emedicalhub.com / swollen-uvula/
- Home remedies for swollen uvula. https://www.besthomeremedies.net/ home-remedies- swollen- inflamed- uvula/
- Sleep apnea. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea