What does it mean when your uvula is swollen ?
The mouth is a very important part of the body. Its roofing has two main sections: the hard palate and soft palate.
The uvula is one of the structures you can find in the mouth. It is located at the back of the throat. It is the structure that hangs from the middle of the soft palate.
It consists of mucous membranes, muscles, and connective tissues. It has a canal that excretes saliva. The soft palate is the one responsible in closing the nasal passages when you swallow. On the other hand, the uvula is the one responsible in pushing foods toward the throat.
The uvula is a sensitive structure. It is prone to swelling and inflammation. The condition is medically called uvulitis. A swollen uvula causes discomfort and pain. Severe swelling could affect your ability to swallow and breathe. (1, 2, 3)
Swollen Uvula Pictures
Image 1: An upclose image of a swollen uvula.
Picture Source: emedicalhub.com
Picture 2: An image of a healthy uvula.
Photo Source: images.uncyc.org
Picture 3: A swollen and irritated uvula.
Image Source: healthool.com
What are the clinical manifestations?
- Swelling of the uvula and the surrounding structures
- Sore throat
- Breathing problems
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) (4, 5)
Who are at risk?
Anybody can get uvulitis but the prevalence is higher in children, those who use tobacco products, allergies, exposed to chemicals and environmental irritants, and weak immune system. (4)
Causes of swollen uvula
Bacterial and viral infections
Infection in the body, be it a bacterial or viral one can significantly affect the uvula. It could be caused by respiratory tract infection, strep throat, mononucleosis, and common colds. (5)
An allergic reaction causes build-up of fluid in the throat and/or mouth, which could lead to swelling. It could be an allergic reaction to foods, insect bites, and other environmental elements. If not treated right away could lead to anaphylactic reaction, which can be very fatal. (5, 6)
Some hereditary conditions increase the possibility of swollen uvula such as a cleft lip and palate. It causes the uvula to be enlarged or sometimes missing. Some people have elongated uvula, although will not swell, but can cause similar symptoms due to its humungous size. (6)
Other possible causes of swollen uvula include the following:
- Injury to the throat and/or uvula itself
- Dry mouth
- Acid reflux
- Excessive alcohol drinking and smoking
- Breathing in harmful chemicals
- Swollen uvula secondary to surgical operation
- Swollen uvula as a side effect of general anesthesia (6, 7, 8)
How to diagnose uvulitis?
It is important to accurately diagnose the condition of the patient. This is to treat the underlying cause of a swollen uvula. If you have a fever and the swelling of the uvula gets severe, it is an indication of a serious underlying medical condition.
You should see your doctor right away. The doctor will take a complete past medical and surgical history. The doctor will ask if whether or not you have taken over the counter drugs or prescription medication.
The doctor will also rule out the possibility of abuse such as excessive smoking and alcohol drinking. These vices can actually affect the structure in the mouth and throat including the uvula. (9)
A thorough physical exam can help the doctor accurately determine the root cause of the problem. If there is a secretion from the uvula, the doctor will order for a swab to check whether the infection is bacterial or fungal in nature.
A nostril swab will also be ordered to check for influenza. A blood test can be ordered too to determine the extent of the infection. (1, 7, 8)
Swollen uvula : Treatment and Remedies
Mild uvulitis can be treated right in the comfort of home. In fact, a swollen uvula can be treated using home remedies. The recommended natural remedies for a swollen uvula include the following:
- Hydration – It is important to keep the body well hydrated. Drink plenty of water to hasten the healing process. Well hydrated tissues can improve the body’s response to infection.
- Saline gargle – You should gargle with a saline water (warm water with salt). It is effective in the treatment of uvulitis and can soothe an inflamed throat.
- Lozenges – They give temporary relief from pain and itching of the throat. If you don’t have lozenges, you can use eucalyptus cough drops or throat spray. They are readily available over the counter. (9, 10)
- Calming tea – drinking a tea with healing benefits can help improve your overall condition. Examples are hot tea with honey. A tea with basil leaves can reduce throat irritation.
- Rest – it is important to get plenty of rest. This will give ample time for the body to recover from the illness. (10)
When you should contact your doctor?
If the swollen uvula does not seem to improve despite home treatment, then the best thing to do is to see your doctor. More so, if the swelling gets worse. The doctor will thoroughly conduct a physical examination and imaging studies when deemed necessary. This is to pinpoint the exact cause of the swelling.
If the doctor is suspecting an infection, he/she will order a blood test, culture and sensitivity, and x-ray. Alarming signs of swollen uvula are difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), severe dehydration, difficulty breathing (dyspnea), a blood or pus draining from the uvula, fever, muffled voice, and severe pain. (2, 6, 10)
For bacterial infection, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. For extreme pain and swelling, the doctor will prescribe steroids. This is to manage the swelling, pain, and redness. If the swelling of the uvula is caused by an allergic reaction, the doctor will prescribe antihistamine. It helps alleviate itching and improve breathing.
To hasten the healing process, you should combine medical intervention and home remedies. Most cases of uvulitis is mild and clears up quickly. If the condition does not heal within the expected timeframe, then the best thing to do is to consult your doctor.
The doctor is the best person to help you, especially when it comes to treating serious medical conditions. (5, 10)