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Your uvula is the drop-like tissue hanging down the middle of your upper throat. It has several vital functions, including:
If your uvula is swollen or damaged, it can impact your ability to talk, eat, and breathe normally.
A swollen uvula can touch the back of your tongue, causing the sensation of a foreign object in your throat. It can cause difficulty eating and breathing and sometimes contributes to sleep apnea.
If your uvula becomes inflamed and begins to cause issues in your daily life, you should talk to your doctor. Seek immediate medical care if you have trouble breathing.
Uvula swelling (uvulitis) can be caused by:1,2
Infections that affect your uvula are likely to cause other symptoms, such as a sore throat or tonsillar swelling. When only the uvula is swollen, and there’s no infection, the condition is sometimes referred to as Quincke’s disease.1
You should see a doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
Treating a swollen uvula is essential to prevent further complications. Your doctor can diagnose the cause of your swelling with a physical exam, a history of your symptoms, and possibly a blood test or throat culture.
The proper course of treatment will depend on the underlying cause, but it usually includes medication. You may also need to avoid certain irritants or allergens.
In rare cases, you may need uvula reduction surgery (uvuloplasty). It’s the only option if you have a naturally elongated uvula unrelated to inflammation.
Your doctor will prescribe medication according to the cause of your swollen uvula:
Sometimes uvulitis is caused by a virus. If your healthcare provider determines this to be the case, they won’t prescribe antibiotics, as they’re only effective for bacterial infections.4
Your symptoms may subside independently. However, your doctor may prescribe a steroid to relieve the swelling.
To relieve the discomfort of a swollen uvula at home, you can use some common sore throat remedies, such as:
These home remedies aren’t likely to reverse the swelling. But they can relieve throat pain while your symptoms subside on their own or while you take the medicine prescribed by your doctor.
It’s essential to see your doctor to determine the cause of the swelling because the wrong treatment could prolong your symptoms. In one case, uvulitis caused by a virus only began to subside once the person stopped taking antibiotics.4
Your uvula can be injured during surgery, particularly if your healthcare providers place a breathing tube down your throat (intubation). Intubation may cause trauma to your uvula, making it swollen.
As your body recovers, your swollen uvula should improve. In the meantime, your doctor may suggest taking OTC medication to relieve pain or prescribe a steroid to reduce inflammation.
Talk to your doctor if you don’t see any swelling reduction or experience any additional symptoms, especially if they affect your ability to breathe or eat.
Uvula swelling is generally temporary. As your body recovers from whatever caused it, the swelling should decrease, especially with appropriate treatment.
It’s important to seek advice from a medical professional to ensure your treatment is appropriate to the cause. For example, a bacterial infection may require antibiotics, while a viral infection needs a different approach.
In addition, while your swelling may go down on its own eventually, anti-inflammatory steroids prescribed by your doctor could shorten your recovery time.
You can’t prevent every possible cause of a swollen uvula, but you may be able to reduce your risk by doing the following:
Around 2% of people have a cleft or bifid uvula, which is a uvula with a split down the middle. It is technically a mild form of cleft palate and often doesn’t cause any problems.
You can be perfectly healthy and have a split uvula. It’s a bit more common in Asian and Native American populations. However, in some cases, it can be a sign of an underlying disorder affecting your soft palate or other connective tissues.
A cleft uvula isn’t the same as uvulitis and may not indicate anything wrong. But you should see a medical professional if you notice any unusual changes or symptoms relating to your uvula.
Your uvula is the tissue hanging down in the middle of your throat. It performs several important functions related to breathing, eating, and speech.
Inflammation of the uvula (uvulitis) can cause it to swell, interfering with everyday activities and possibly making breathing difficult. Infections, irritation, and a variety of other causes can cause uvulitis.
If you notice unusual changes to your uvula, have persistent throat discomfort, or have trouble breathing normally, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
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