What does a swollen uvula mean?
The uvula is that small structure hanging in the back of your throat, being actually an extension of your soft palate. This structure is composed out of glandular and muscular tissue, being highly vascularized. This blend between soft connective tissue and epithelial layers has the function of keeping microorganisms from entering further down the body and especially into the digestive tract. It also has an important role in speech and it is capable of producing saliva. In fact, the uvula is responsible for the snoring sounds a person makes during sleeping.
As the functions of the uvula are pretty important, it is not recommended for it to be removed, unless there is a severe infection of cancer involved. The swelling of the uvula is also known as uvulitis and it is not a common condition. Swollen uvulas are encountered equally in children and adults, being encountered along side the swelling of adjacent tissues. In fact, it is extremely rare when one has only the uvula swollen, without any of the around tissues or structured being affected.
Symptoms of Swollen Uvula
These are the most common symptoms of a swollen uvula:
- Red and swollen uvula
- Swelling of surrounding tissues and structures
- In more severe cases, one can also encounter the following symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty talking
- Sleep apnea
- Nasal regurgitation
What does a swollen uvula look like?
These are the most common causes of swollen uvula:
- Infection – bacterial (strep throat, tonsillitis, mononucleosis) or viral (influenza)
- Trauma to the throat
- In children, acute pharyngitis can cause the uvula to become swollen
- Dryness – this is a direct result of dehydration or it is present in persons who sleep with their mouth open (because of large adenoids)
- Alcohol excess
- Canker sores
- Allergic reactions
- Hereditary angioneurotic edema – this condition appears because of a genetic mutation and it causes different parts of the body, including the uvula, to swell
- Eating hot foods can damage the uvula, causing it to become swollen
- Medical procedures, such as intubation
- Genetic conditions, such as the cleft lip or palate – in many cases the uvula is missing but there just as many cases where the uvula is longer than usual, thus having more chances of becoming hurt and swollen.
Treatment for Swollen Uvula
The treatment depends on the actual cause that has led to the swollen uvula in the first place. These are the most common courses of treatment:
- Anti-bacterial medication for bacterial infection – broad spectrum antibiotics. Antibiotics should be taken for the entire period of time that is recommended by the doctor, otherwise the bacteria will develop resistance to the antibiotic in question
- Anti-viral medication for viral infections
- Corticosteroids are given especially in the situation of allergic reactions. They can help reduce the inflammation but also help with other symptoms, including redness and pain
- Anti-allergy pills – antihistamines are recommended for allergic patients
- Surgical removal is recommended only in situations of cancer or extremely severe infections
- Natural remedies are also recommended:
- Gargling with warm, salty water
- Ice cubes chewing
- Turmeric and ginger decoction – anti-septic and anti-bacterial properties
- Honey – anti-bacterial properties
- Herbal tea (ginger, basil leaves, cloves, black pepper
- Natural herbs – licorice and neem have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties
- Garlic cloves chewing – anti-bacterial properties, plus it reduces upsetting symptoms such as irritation and pain
- Proper hydration (at least two liters of water per day). Natural and fresh orange juice can also help you keep hydrated. Warm tea is especially recommended during the cold season. However, you should avoid hot drinks, as they can damage both the uvula and the surrounding tissues, causing them to become swollen
- Avoid drinking alcohol, as it can lead to severe dehydration
- Vitamin C supplements can help the immune system to become stronger
- Fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet
- Use a vaporizer to moisten your throat, especially during the cold season
- Use a humidifier during sleeping at night. This is especially useful if you sleep with your mouth open, as it will prevent the uvula and surrounding tissues from getting dry and swollen
- Change your sleeping position so that you do not sleep with your mouth open and your head rests comfortably on the pillow, in a position that is anatomically correct
- In case of severe allergic reactions, you might need to get a shot of epinephrine or adrenaline to prevent life-threatening symptoms
- Avoid drinking fizzy drinks and eating salty foods at these can irritate the structures in your throat, uvula included, pretty easily
- Avoid straining your voice, as these can cause the throat tissues to dry and become swollen, uvula included
As you can see for yourself, there are certain medical treatments that can help in cases of swollen uvula, some of them having the purpose to solve a bacterial or viral infection in the body. In the situation when the uvula is swollen because of an allergic reaction, it might be necessary to take anti-allergy medication or even an adrenaline injection to prevent anaphylactic shock.
However, there are many more self care measures that will help you deal with swollen uvula. You have understood by now that drinking plenty of water is a must and so is refraining from beverages that might make you dehydrated. Make sure to take into account all the advice you have received under the treatment chapter and soon you will have a healthy uvula. Some of these measures are strictly related to you making a change, so you have to do it, one step at a time.
Collection of images, photos and pictures of swollen uvula…