Uvula is the elongated flesh that you can see hanging from the soft palate in the back part of your throat. It consists of soft connective tissues that are highly vascular. It is enveloped by an epithelial layer. When it swells up, the condition is called uvulitis. It plays an important role in the functioning of our body. It acts as a barrier for microorganisms and does not let them enter the digestive tract. Thus, keeps most of the sickness at bay. That is why, it is never suggested to get it removed unless the swelling gets severe or cancer is caused in uvula.
Why does uvula swell?
There are many reasons for the inflammation of uvula but it is not very common situation. But, it can happen to both children as well as adults.
One of the most common causes for a swollen uvula is bacterial or viral infection. Infections in throat can cause strep throat, tonsillitis, mononucleosis, or epiglottitis. The infection that causes irritation in nose, ears or throat can swell up the uvula because all these organs are connected. Though it is rare to see epiglottis in children, but if it happens, it can be harmful to them. It creates problems in breathing.
Allergic reactions are also responsible for this condition. If you notice swelling in mouth (also called edema) and throat, it can spread and cause swelling in uvula. It is a definite symptom of anaphylactic reaction. It should be treated immediately because it causes problem in breathing. People who have suffered from this problem may use epinephrine. It can also lead to death in extreme cases.
Gene mutation can also lead to genetic disorders, which may cause uvula or any other body part to swell. It is a common phenomenon for such people to have a swollen uvula. People with genetic disorder show the signs of this condition in childhood only.
It happens in rare cases, but there are certain situations which can injure uvula. If someone eats extremely hot food or drinks a hot liquid, the uvula can swell. Moreover, if a breathing tube is inserted inside a person, it might disturb the normal condition of uvula.
There are many genetic conditions which may lead to enlargement of uvula. Palate or cleft lip is caused when you see swelling in the roof of the mouth. This may also cause swelling in uvula. Moreover, some people inherit an elongated uvula. There is a difference between swollen and elongated uvula. But, they show similar signs of trouble. People need to get the uvula removed surgically in such cases.
Dryness in the mouth is another cause which creates irritation inside the mouth and the irritation spreads to uvula. Avoid drinking extremely hot drinks or other irritating drinks. They may also cause damage to other parts of the mouth.
Symptoms that show that uvula is swollen
Uvulitis or swollen/inflamed uvula is a condition, not a disease, which is caused by other problems in the body. It might also be the case because the uvula barricaded the potential entry of bacteria into the digestive or respiratory tract. The patient may notice the symptoms mentioned below:
The standard symptom of a swollen uvula is sore throat. You may also experience dryness in throat that causes irritation in throat. Patients of uvulitis also complain of tightness in throat.
Difficulty in Breathing and other difficulties in mouth
Patients may also face difficulty in breathing with a swollen uvula. The patient may also experience difficulty to swallow food, especially if the swelling has interfered with tonsils. It makes difficult to swallow anything.
Pain in the throat
It is also a part of inflammation process with other inflammation responses. Patients also face headaches.
Inflammation of tonsils
Inflammation of tonsils and around them also causes discomfort to the patient. The quality of voice becomes hoarse when uvula is swollen.
Infections in uvula also lead to formation of pus.
Patients may also go into fever if they face this condition for longer period.
Patient experiences sore throat, dysphagia or feeling of having something in throat. It is not necessary that they experience fever. But, patient has the tendency to spit, gag or choke frequently because they face too much difficulty in engulfing in his own saliva.
Diagnosing the condition of swollen uvula
A local examination is enough to diagnose a swollen uvula. Doctors also use some of these techniques to diagnose the condition.
Blood test or hemogram is recommended to check for infection. If there is a rise in WBC or white blood cells, the infection is severe.
Uvula culture or throat culture is done to find out the exact cause. The kind of microorganism comes into notice and the required treatment can be given. For this purpose, a cotton swab is used to rub on the uvula and it is examined in the laboratory to identify the microorganism.
X-ray helps in diagnosing the cause when the patient complains of severe difficulties in swallowing. One may also notice choking when the condition is severe.
Difference in diagnosis between epiglottitis and uvulitis
Epiglottitis needs immediate attention. It should be identified as soon as possible. It could be a threat to the patient’s life because the windpipe is affected and the path for air is blocked. The respiratory failure could lead to death. It is common with children aged 2-6 years. They often experience fever and their buckle cavity is inflamed. Doctor should be contacted at the earliest in case of epiglottitis.
Treatment of swollen uvula
Antimicrobial and Antibiotics:
When uvulitis is caused due to allergic conditions, steroids are prescribed by the medical practitioners in many cases. Steroids help to reduce inflammation, pain and redness in the uvula.