All You Need to Know About Uvulitis (Swollen Uvula)
The uvula is a bell-shaped hanging piece of flesh at the back of your mouth. It helps push the food towards the throat. There are many causes for inflammation or swelling of the uvula.
A swollen uvula also called as uvulitis can be an irritating condition as it directly affects your ability to swallow.
The swollen or enlarged uvula is common in many people. Although it is a temporary condition, if left untreated, it can cause severe complications such as difficulty breathing.
If you experience inflammation in your throat, it’s best to find out the root causes and treat them on time to eliminate the chances of developing uvulitis.
What Is Uvula?
The uvula is the conic projection at the end of your mouth. It is the hanging piece of flesh that you see at the end of your soft palate (1).
It consists of a huge number of connective tissue. Many people don’t look after the uvula much and don’t know about its functions. Uvula plays some important roles in our body, as explained below:
- It helps you with speech articulation
- Helps filter out bacteria that may cause respiratory and digestive problems
- It keeps the throat lubricated through saliva
- Uvula helps block the nasopharynx so that the food doesn’t go up to the nose and directing the food’s motion
- It also triggers the gag reflex which helps prevent choking by pushing the food which is too large to swallow up
This easy-to-forget part of your mouth plays many different yet important roles in your digestion and respiration. Uvula ensures the food does not enter your nasal cavity and does not interrupt the breathing process.
Symptoms of Swollen Uvula
The most obvious signs of swollen or enlarged uvula are visible inflammation and an enlarged uvula. Following are the common signs and symptoms of a swollen uvula:
1. Painful Swallowing: This can happen because the swollen uvula comes in the way of the food. The uneasy swallowing causes pain in the back of your mouth.
2. Swelling in the other Parts of the Mouth: When you develop uvulitis, you may notice spot swelling in other areas of the mouth like tonsils.
3. Speaking Problems: As uvula helps in speech articulation, inflammation or swelling may cause problems speaking.
4. Breathing Problems: Swollen uvula can also cause inflammation of tonsils, that can lead to difficulty breathing.
5. Gagging: This happens because the enlarged uvula brushes against the back of the mouth and triggers the gag reflex.
6. Feeling of Logging in the Throat: can be triggered by the swollen uvula.
7. Sleeping Problems: The sleeping issues may arise because the swollen uvula may get in the breathing pathway while lying down.
8. Fever: Fever is one of the primary symptoms of uvulitis.
9. Nasal Regurgitation: You may also experience nasal regurgitation as the inflamed uvula will not be able to block the nasopharynx, and thus food comes out of the nose.
When you develop the above symptoms, you should know it is time for you to look into your oral health.
What Causes Swollen Uvula?
Many causes lead to uvulitis, and it is always better to know them and avoid them. Some of the major causes that lead to enlarged uvula are:
Both bacterial and viral infections are the leading causes for the uvulitis. Some of the main infections that cause swelling of uvula are:
- Common cold
- The flu
- Chicken pox
Strep throat is another common infection that can cause uvulitis. It is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes virus, which is a part of type A streptococcus.
An injury or trauma to the throat can also affect your uvula. Following are some common situations that increase your chances of having a trauma to the throat.
Intubation: this can result in uvulitis and is the procedure of placing a tube in your throat which is during surgeries
Tonsillectomy: this can also lead to uvulitis and is a process of removing your tonsils which are both sides of the uvula
Frequent Vomiting: frequent vomiting can also lead to a swollen uvula as it puts a lot of pressure on the same causing inflammation and swelling on the same
In sporadic cases, hereditary angioedema (HAE) can cause swelling or inflammation of the throat and uvula.
It can also cause swelling of the hands, face, and feet. This genetic mutation occurs in 1 in 10,000 people (2).
However, there are some cases of individuals having inflamed uvula, that may interfere with the breathing (3). Abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting are the other symptoms associated with this condition.
3. Environmental and Lifestyle Factors
Some environmental factors can affect your uvula without you knowing it. These factors include:
Irritants: There can be many agents that irritate your uvula like dust, pollen, etc.
Exposure to certain metals and chemicals can also cause swelling of the uvula.
Medication: Sometimes it is possible that some medication has a side effect on your uvula and leads to the swelling of the same
Some food allergies can also lead to swollen or enlarged uvula. Thus it is important to know what foods to avoid when you experience swollen uvula.
Following are the common food allergens:
- Tree nuts
What Are the Risk Factors of Swollen Uvula?
It is common for anyone to suffer from uvulitis but children are more likely to get this. There are still some risk factors that are to be taken care of and prevented.
You are at a risk if you:
- Have allergies
- Have a weakened immune system which is prone to have infections
- Consume tobacco products
- Are exposed to chemicals frequently
It is advisable to take good care if you are prone to these factors and be safe to avoid swelling of the uvula.
How to Treat Swollen Uvula?
There are many ways treat the swelling of your uvula, some of the best working tips are explained below.
Uvulitis can be best treated with medicines and most commonly used are antibiotics and steroids.
Antibiotics can be used in the case of infections. Your doctor may prescribe the right antibiotics depending on the severity of the condition.
Steroids can be used to treat this condition in the case of allergies. If the pain is unbearable, analgesic can be prescribed.
Check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications.
2. Ice chips
Chewing the ice chips can be the best home remedy for uvulitis if it is due to the irritation. The ice chips ease the pain and slowly reduce the swelling.
If the swelling is due to dryness of the mouth, water can help. Drink plenty of water to keep your throat lubricated and balances the dryness.
If the swelling is due to inflammation, gargling of salt water may ease the inflammation and reduce the swelling.
In the case of infections, honey can be an excellent way to give some antiseptic treatment to your uvula.
The antibacterial properties of honey can help treat the infection and ease the swelling.
5. Avoiding Smoking and Tobacco Products
Stop smoking or cut back on the tobacco products.
Smoking can aggravate the swelling of the uvula, and hence it is strictly recommended to avoid it for faster recovery.
Other Home Remedies for Swollen Uvula
Some home remedies can help you to get rid of uvulitis naturally, without any side effects. Let’s take a look at these natural remedies to treat swollen uvula at home:
- Chew gloves of garlic
- Use throat lozenges like throat spray or a eucalyptus cough drops to help to numb the pain
- A combination of honey and hot tea or honey and hot water can help soothe a sore throat
- Basil tea can contribute to reducing the throat irritation
- Eat fresh fruits and drink fruit juices to boost your immunity
When to See a Doctor?
Uvulitis or swollen uvula does not always need medical attention but if neglected can lead to severe problems.
These are some of the significant symptoms that you need to see a doctor:
- Uvulitis in a child who also has infections
- Severe breathing problems
- Problems swallowing that may lead to choking
- Unbearable throat pain
- Pus or blood from the uvula
Look into these symptoms and make sure that you seek medical help and stay healthy.