Look in a mirror, open your mouth and say “ah.” See that flap of tissue that hangs in the back of your mouth? That's known as your uvula. Usually, you're unaware of its presence, but if the uvula swells, it can feel like something is stuck in your throat. A swollen uvula may get better by itself, but if the condition becomes serious, you could need immediate professional care. Here's what to know about this condition.
Causes and Symptoms of Uvulitis
The medical term for inflammation of the uvula is uvulitis, according to the Government of Alberta, and the most common cause of uvulitis is an infection, though allergies may also be a cause. When your uvula is infected, it becomes swollen and red. Additionally, your throat may feel sore, and you may find swallowing difficult and painful. As your body tackles the infection, you may run a fever, too.
An article published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine states that the condition may be isolated to the uvula or it may extend to the pharynx and epiglottis. The pharynx is the back of the throat, and the epiglottis is a small flap that covers the windpipe when we swallow.
The same home remedies you would use for a sore throat may be all it takes to treat a case of uvulitis. The Government of Alberta recommends gargling every hour with a solution of one teaspoon of salt dissolved in a cup of warm water. Drinking plenty of fluids can also help to ease your sore uvula, unless you have a condition that requires you to limit your fluid intake. Over-the-counter throat sprays for sore throats and pain medicines can sometimes help, but you should consult your doctor before using these and follow the instructions on the medication labels closely. In addition, avoid smoking, or your inflamed uvula could become worse.
As the Government of Alberta explains, your physician might prescribe antibiotics for a swollen uvula brought on by bacterial infection. Alternately, if the swelling is due to an allergic reaction, they may prescribe steroids and antihistamines. During or after your course of medication, your doctor may ask you to return for one or more follow-up appointments. Even if your symptoms have gone away, you should attend subsequent appointments to ensure your safety and health.
When to Seek Emergency Care
Because the uvula hangs at the back of the mouth directly in the airway, swelling can turn into a medical emergency. If you experience shortness of breath or difficulty with swallowing, or if your pain becomes worse or you feel noticeably sicker, seek professional help immediately. Fever, increased redness and warmth, pus draining from your uvula, red streaks or swelling of the area are additional symptoms indicating that you may need emergency treatment, according to the Government of Alberta.
Swelling of your uvula can be uncomfortable, but it's likely you'll be able to ease your symptoms at home. However, if your symptoms worsen, it's important to see your doctor just in case you have a more serious condition.