What Causes a Swollen Uvula?

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You may experience an inflamed uvula, also known as uvulitis, as a result of your body's inflammatory response. The uvula is a bell-shaped organ that hangs from the soft palate or the back of the palate.

The uvula plays an important role in speech and is capable of producing saliva, which is made up of various types of tissues, including muscle and glandular tissues. The tongue also contributes to the sounds that are made when a person snores.

The purpose of language is not fully understood, although some researchers believe that it is a marker of human evolution. Some believe it protects you while you drink with your head and body in a bowed position. Others believe that it was an adaptive mechanism for the protection of ancient peoples from the insects that flew into their mouths as they ran .

Symptoms

An inflamed uvula, which is rare, can cause a variety of symptoms based on inflammation in and around the uvula. Symptoms associated with a swollen uvula can include:

  • Hot
  • Difficulty to swallow
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Snore
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Pain
  • Sickness
  • Slime

Swelling of the uvula without inflammation of other tissues and structures around the uvula is very rare.

An inflamed uvula can play a role in obstructive sleep apnea. Some patients with sleep apnea have surgery to remove the uvula called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) or uvulectomy. This operation is often combined with a tongue stem placement procedure or a tongue removal procedure to increase its efficiency.

Causes

A swollen tongue can also be due to the following reasons.

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Infections

Throat infections can cause swelling of other tissues and, later, of the uvula. These infections can be bacterial or viral and can include:

Epiglottitis is a rare and dangerous disease that was much more likely in children than adults before the Haemophilus influenzae type B (HiB) vaccine was routinely given to infants.

In epiglottitis, the infection causes swelling of the epiglottis (a small piece of tissue attached to the end of the tongue) and surrounding structures, and can quickly lead to breathing problems. If your healthcare provider suspects epiglottitis, they will not take a throat swab because it can lead to airway loss.

Instead, they'll send you to the emergency room right away to make sure they can protect your airway, and a breathing tube will be placed if necessary. If you can tolerate computed tomography (CT), they may do so to help diagnose epiglottitis.

To determine how to treat an inflamed uvula, if epiglottitis is not suspected, your doctor will take a swab from the uvula and send a sample for culture. If the cause is bacterial, your healthcare provider may treat it with antibiotics.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms and vaccination status (in children), your healthcare provider may prescribe oral or intravenous antibiotics. If the culture is negative, the cause is most likely viral and antibiotics will not help.

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions can cause swelling (swelling) of the mouth and throat, including swelling of the uvula. This could be a sign of an urgent anaphylactic reaction .

People with rapid swelling of the mouth and throat should go to the nearest emergency room for an adrenaline shot. Some people who have experienced this type of allergic reaction may carry adrenaline with them . It can also be treated with an inhaled version of epinephrine called racemic epinephrine .

Hereditary angioedema

Hereditary angioedema, or HANE, is a rare genetic disorder caused by a genetic mutation. The condition causes seizures in which swelling can occur in various parts of the body, including the uvula.

The swelling will be different from many other causes of an inflamed uvula because your uvula will not be erythematous (red), but white and swollen like grapes. Most people with this disorder experience their first seizure during childhood .

Injury

Uvula lesions can cause swelling, although uvula lesions are not very common as you might imagine. Hot food can burn the uvula, and some medical procedures, such as inserting a breathing tube (intubation), can damage the uvula.

Complications of intubation are rare. Usually in the event of an injury, sucking on ice chips or using local anesthetics can help control symptoms.

Genetic conditions

Certain genetic conditions can cause abnormalities in the uvula. A cleft lip / palate is a condition that affects the palate (palate), resulting in the absence of the uvula or other abnormality.

It is also possible to inherit an elongated uvula; An enlarged or elongated hereditary uvula is not actually the same as an inflamed uvula, although it can cause similar symptoms. If symptoms are bothersome, the uvula may need to be surgically removed.

Watch out

Treatment of an inflamed uvula depends on the causes described above.

  • Infectious causes: antibiotic treatment of bacterial diseases.
  • Non-infectious causes: Treat sore throat symptoms with throat lozenges, suck or chew ice cubes, or use local anesthetics such as lidocaine.
  • Respiratory problems: injections of epinephrine or inhaled epinephrine, intravenous steroids, and intravenous antihistamines

Oral steroids may also be prescribed to treat an inflamed uvula of infectious or non-infectious etiology.

With proper treatment, you will generally recover from an inflamed uvula with no long-term effects. Mild inflammation of the uvula may go away on its own without treatment.

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If you have a simple case of swollen uvula, drinking cold fluids or sucking / drinking ice chips can ease pain and reduce swelling.

But if your tongue becomes so swollen that you can't swallow or speak, or you have trouble breathing, you should go to the nearest emergency room. The swelling can be treated with medications, depending on the cause and severity of the swollen uvula.

Frequently asked questions

  • In very rare cases, yes, a red, swollen tongue can be a sign of COVID-19.

  • If you snore at night, the vibration caused by snoring can irritate the uvula and cause swelling and discomfort. In other cases, the elongation and swelling of the uvula can lead to snoring. Check with your doctor to see if there is an underlying problem that can be addressed to treat both problems.

  • Severely infected tonsils can swell enough to press on the uvula and cause inflammation. However, this does not mean that the infection has spread. Treatment of the tonsils should also relieve the uvula.

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