Uvula Swelling

A Guide to Uvula Swelling

Uvula swelling can be a pretty scary thing to wake up to. The uvula is the fleshy lobe located at the back of the throat. Cartoons often depict it as being similar to a punching bag due to its similarity in shape and overall appearance.

What is the uvula and what does it do?

The uvula is basically a small mass composed of fleshy tissue, glands, and muscle fibers. The way that it simply hangs in the back of the throat from the soft palate suggests that the uvula doesn’t really do much, but this is far from true! The fact of the matter is that the uvula plays a crucial role in the speech process. Guttural sounds which are found in many different languages are created by the uvula working together with the palate, throat, and the expulsion of air. These sounds are particularly common in French, Spanish, Celtic, Turkish, and African languages. The uvula is also closely connected with the gag reflex and often triggers said reflex when the uvula is touched.

What are the symptoms of uvula swelling?

There are a variety of symptoms that can accompany uvula swelling. The presence of these symptoms varies depending on what has caused the uvula to swell. Many people experience pain or discomfort when swallowing, swollen or inflamed tonsils, tightness in the throat, a hoarse voice, and a pesky need to cough often. Other symptoms include nausea or feeling the impulse to vomit, running a high fever, puss development in the throat, and a headache. The severity of these symptoms depends on how the uvula became irritated, whether the irritating substance or cause is still present, and how long the uvula has been swollen.  

 

What causes uvula swelling?

Uvula swelling can be caused by a number of things. A common cause is, believe it or not, snoring. Let’s face it…we’ve all had those nights where we suffered from nasal congestion. As a result, we would have snored quite furiously all night long only to wake up with a sore throat and a red, nearly-doubled-in-size hangey-ball at the back of the throat. Heavy or constant snoring exposes the uvula to excessive vibrations as well as excessive dryness as a result of constant airflow rushing past the sensitive tissues. Nasal congestion is just one of the causes of a swollen uvula. Drinking too much alcohol or failing to drink enough water can result in dehydration. Dehydration in turn causes a sore throat which can also affect the uvula.

If you have ever burned your tongue from an overly hot drink or food, then you may have also suffered from a swollen uvula as well. Hot food can literally scald the skin of the tongue, soft palate (including the uvula), as well as the throat. Irritation from scalding can last anywhere from a day to a week depending on the severity of the burn.

One of the more likely causes of a swollen uvula is an infection caused by either bacteria or a virus such as chicken pox, the common cold, diphtheria, and measles. Viruses are a likely culprit if antibiotics fail to ease the infection, as they are resistant to antibiotic. As the virus or bacteria inhabits the throat and makes its way to the soft palate, the area becomes inflamed and eventually infected, resulting in pain, swelling, redness, and general discomfort.

Home Treatments

If the swelling is a result of a bacterial infection, antibiotics are the best route to choose as far as treatment goes. A humidifier, warm (not hot!) tea with lemon or honey, and gargling peroxide are a few at-home options for treating a swollen uvula. If dehydration is the suspected cause, then it is recommended that you replenish your electrolyte levels with Gatorade or PowerAde and drink plenty of water. If the swelling does not appear to go down at all within a few days, or if the swelling is so bad that you find yourself vomiting frequently, then you should see a doctor about other possible treatments.