Inflammation of the uvula is known as uvulitis. Your uvula will appear red, puffy, and larger than normal. Other symptoms of uvulitis may include:
a sore throat
spots on your throat
If you have a swollen uvula along with a fever or abdominal pain, consult with your doctor right away.
In rare cases, the uvula can swell enough to block your airway. Swelling of the throat is a life-threatening event. If this happens, seek immediate medical attention.
What causes a swollen uvula?
Inflammation is your body’s response when it’s under attack. Triggers for inflammation include:
environmental and lifestyle factors
Environmental and Lifestyle Factors
The most common food allergies are
fish, including shellfish
You could be having an allergic reaction to something you touched, swallowed, or breathed in. Some common allergens include:
irritants , such as dust, animal dander, or pollen
exposure to chemicals or other toxic substances, including tobacco
You can get viral infections or bacterial infections. Examples of viral infections include:
the common cold
The most common bacterial infection is strep throat, which occurs due to Streptococcus pyogenes, which is a type of group A Streptococcus.
If you have infected tonsils, or tonsillitis, severe inflammation can cause them to push against and irritate your uvula.
Trauma to the uvula can happen if you need an intubation, such as during surgery. Your uvula can also be injured during a tonsillectomy. This is a procedure to remove your tonsils, which are located on both sides of your uvula.
Your throat and uvula can also become irritated if you have acid reflux disease or if you vomit frequently.
A condition called hereditary angioedema (HAE) can cause swelling of the uvula and throat, as well as swelling of the face, hands, and feet. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. It’s an uncommon genetic mutation that occurs in 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 50,000 people.
It’s rare, but there are case reports of individuals who have an elongated uvula, which can also interfere with breathing.
What are the risk factors for a swollen uvula?
Anyone can get uvulitis, but adults get it less often than children do. You’re at increased risk if you:
use tobacco products
are exposed to chemicals and other irritants in the environment
have a weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to infections
How is a swollen uvula diagnosed?
If you have fever or swelling of your throat, see your doctor. Be prepared to give a complete medical history. Tell your doctor:
about all the over-the-counter and prescription medications you take
if you’re a smoker or you chew tobacco
if you’ve recently tried new foods
if you’ve been exposed to chemicals or unusual substances
about your other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, fever, or dehydration
Your doctor may be able to make a diagnosis through a physical exam. It’s likely you’ll also need a throat swab to evaluate for strep or to obtain secretions for culture to determine if you have another bacterial or fungal infection. This test is known as the rapid strep test. You may also need a nasal swab to test for influenza. Blood testing can help identify or rule out some other infectious agents.
If those tests are inconclusive, you may need to see an allergist. Blood and skin tests can help identify foods or other substances that cause a reaction.
Learn more: Allergy testing »
If necessary, imaging tests can provide a more detailed view of your throat and the surrounding area.
What’s the treatment for a swollen uvula?
When you have something like the common cold, swelling usually clears up on its own without treatment. Otherwise, treatment will depend on how severe your symptoms are, as well as what’s causing the inflammation.
Viral infections tend to clear up without treatment. The only upper respiratory infection for which an antiviral medication is available is influenza. Antibiotics can treat bacterial infections. Even after symptoms clear up, take all the medication as prescribed. If your condition may be contagious, stay home until your doctor tells you that you’re no longer at risk of spreading it to others.
If you test positive for an allergy, try to avoid the allergen in the future. Doctors usually treat allergies with antihistamines or steroids. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. Doctors use epinephrine to treat this reaction.
Your doctor may treat HAE with any of the following:
anabolic steroids, or androgens
C1 inhibitors, such as C1 esterase inhibitor (Berinert) or C1 esterase inhibitor (recombinant) (Ruconest)
a plasma kallikrein inhibitor, such as ecallantide (Kalbitor)
bradykinin receptor antagonist, such as icatibant injection (Firazyr)
Tell your doctor if you have new or worsening symptoms, and follow up as necessary.
Tips for relief
If you have a swollen uvula or sore throat, it’s your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. A few home remedies can help keep you strong and soothe your irritated throat.
Make sure you’re getting enough fluids. If your throat hurts when you drink, try drinking small amounts throughout the day. Your urine should be light in color. If it’s dark yellow or brown, you’re not drinking enough and may be dehydrated.
Additional tips include the following:
Cool your throat by sucking on ice chips. Frozen juice bars or ice cream may also do the trick.
Gargle with warm salt water to ease your dry, scratchy throat.
Aim for a full night’s sleep, and nap during the day if you can.
What’s the outlook?
A swollen uvula isn’t a common occurrence. Most of the time it clears up without treatment. If you have an infection, prompt treatment should take care of the problem within a week or two.
If you have allergies that lead to swelling of the uvula or throat, do your best to avoid that allergen. You should also be prepared to deal with an attack if you come into contact with the substance again. If you’ve ever had anaphylaxis, ask your doctor if you should carry injectable epinephrine (EpiPen) in case of emergency.
People with HAE must learn to recognize triggers and early warning signs of an attack. Talk to your doctor about how to manage HAE.
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