The fleshy piece of tissue that hangs down at the back of your mouth is called the uvula. The roof of your mouth is divided into sections called the hard palate and the soft palate. The uvula is part of the soft palate and is made up mainly of connective tissue, mucous membranes, and canals that produce saliva. The soft palate is what helps your nasal passage close up each time you swallow and the uvula helps in pushing down food to your throat. When inflammation occurs in the soft palate, expect a swollen uvula that will most likely cause irritation and make it difficult to swallow.
A swollen uvula is also called uvulitis and most often is a temporary condition that will go away with simple home remedies. If the inflammation and swelling are severe proper medication may be necessary.
What Causes Uvulitis?
Inflammation is the way your body reacts when it’s attacked by bacteria or a virus. A swollen uvula can be a signal that your body is under attack and maybe several known trigger factors.
People react to different allergens present in the environment. Ingesting certain foods, or inhaling dust, pollen and animal dander can immediately cause an allergic reaction in different parts of the body including the uvula and it can range from mild to severe.
Just as allergens can trigger allergic reactions, some medications can also have certain side effects that will cause your uvula to swell.
A swollen uvula may be the result of snoring. Yet, on the other hand, heavy and loud snoring vibrations may also cause your uvula to get swollen
The presence of certain chemical substances in the environment may cause you to inhale its fumes and trigger an allergic reaction. Inhaling second-hand smoke is a common cause.
Although this is not very common, a significant lack of fluid intake can cause a swollen uvula especially if you have been consuming large amounts of alcohol without drinking water.
Whenever the body is battling an infection, the uvula is basically the first to get inflamed and swollen. Viral infections such as the common cold, flu, mononucleosis and the croup can trigger uvulitis.
The peskiest infection that always affects the uvula is strep throat. When your tonsils are infected by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, you are most likely going to infect not only your tonsils but also your uvula.
Some sexually transmitted diseases also cause uvulitis especially if the person’s immune system is compromised. People infected with HIV and herpes usually develop oral thrush and eventually cause the uvula to get swollen
Frequent vomiting and acid reflux due to GERD can cause significant trauma and irritation to your throat and your uvula. The acid from the food regurgitation and vomit irritates the mucous membranes of the uvula cause it to swell up.
If a person also has undergone surgery, intubation can injure the uvula. A tonsillectomy which is a procedure that removes your tonsils located on both sides of the uvula can also cause damage to it.
An elongated uvula will look like a swollen one but to people with this rare genetic trait, this is just the normal size. It is not uvulitis as it is not infected however, due to its size it may interfere with breathing. The only course of remedy for this condition is surgery.
The Diagnosis of Uvulitis
If fever is present along with swollen tonsils or a swollen uvula, this is most likely a sign of an infection that may merit a visit to the doctor along with a medical prescription. The doctor may ask you the following questions to determine the cause of the inflammation:
- What medications have you recently taken or regularly take?
- Do you smoke or chew tobacco?
- Have you tried new dishes that may have certain spices or ingredients you don’t usually eat or have never had?
- Have you been exposed to unusual chemical substances?
- Are you experiencing other symptoms such as abdominal pain etc?
Aside from a physical exam, your doctor may recommend a throat culture to test for possible bacterial or fungal infection. A blood test may also be required to determine if you have a viral or bacterial infection. Should the results of all these tests be negative or vague and inconclusive, an allergologist will be recommended to evaluate you further.
Symptoms of Uvulitis
- Difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Excessive saliva
- Sore scratchy throat
- Swollen tonsils
- Pain when swallowing
Home Treatment and Care
A sore throat and a swollen uvula can be treated at home with just a few handy ingredients you can find in your pantry. This is meant to soothe and relieve irritation and swelling in your throat.
- Ice chips, frozen juice or frozen yogurt can help cool your throat and reduce swelling
- Salt with warm water gargle will soothe a dry and scratchy throat
- Ginger and Turmeric tea is a cure-all for inflammation with its antibacterial properties
- Get a full night’s sleep and refrain from using your voice to lessen the vibration of the uvula
- Drink plenty of water by taking frequent sips instead of gulping down an entire glass if you’re not such a big water drinker.
Common colds and the flu usually clear out on its own without medical treatment. But any underlying issues may need further medical treatment to resolve recurring uvulitis.
Viral infections clear up without medications although you can take vitamin supplements to boost your immune system and help clear up the infection faster. There are no antiviral medications for upper respiratory infections.except for influenza.
Should you test positive for any allergies — the only way to treat them is with a course of antihistamines or steroids. It is best to determine which substances give you allergies to avoid future exposure and further episodes as you can put yourself at risk of getting anaphylaxis from a severe allergic reaction.