The uvula (also palatine uvula) is a small fleshy elongated portion that is located in the posterior edge of the middle of the soft palate. It is surrounded by an epithelial layer and is majorly comprised of highly vascular soft connective tissues. In medical terms, a swollen uvula is known as uvulitis. Most people do not know the function of this organ. Its role is to trap microorganisms and to keep them from entering the digestive tract thus preventing you from contracting illness. This organ should not be removed unless advised by a doctor in case it is infected or affected (as in cancer). Inflammation of the uvula is a relatively rare condition which can be a result of several reasons and may occur on both children and adults.

Causes of Swollen Uvula

Uvula becomes swollen when the mass of tissues around it swell. It’s quite rare for the uvula alone to swell without affecting other structures. Below are conditions that may result in swelling of this organ.


Infections affecting the throat may also affect other tissues and the uvula to swell. These infections can be viral or bacterial. A good example is strep throat and other infections that may result in mononucleosis, tonsillitis or epiglottitis. Though epiglottitis is rare, it can be very dangerous when it occurs, especially in children, and can lead to difficulties in breathing.


Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions may lead to rapid swelling of the throat and mouth (also known as edema). When this happens, it can spread and affect or infect the uvula. When this happens, it is a sure sign of an anaphylactic reaction, an emergency. As soon as you realize this, visit your nearest emergency room for a shot of epinephrine. Some people who have encountered this type of allergic reaction may use epinephrine.


Hereditary Angioneurotic Edema

Hereditary Angioneurotic Edema (HANE) is ideally caused by a gene mutation. However, this condition is very rare but when it happens, different areas of the body begin swelling, including the uvula. A great number of people deal with their first encounter of this disorder during childhood.



Injuries to the uvula can cause it to swell. This condition is not very common as you may imagine. However, it is still possible to burn the uvula by consuming hot food. Sometimes this organ may also be damaged during some medical processes such as insertion of breathing tubes, also known as intubation. Still, complications resulting from medical procedures are rare.


Genetic Conditions

Certain genetic conditions may result in abnormalities of the uvula such as enlargement. Palate/cleft lip is a condition that mostly affects the roof of the mouth causing the uvula to have some abnormalities such as enlargement. Moreover, an elongated uvula is hereditary. Note the difference between a swollen and an elongated uvula. Though they are different, they both have similar symptoms of being troublesome. In this case, the uvula must be surgically removed.


Other Causes

Mouth dryness is another cause of uvulitis and irritates the inside of the mouth through to the uvula. It is one of the most common causes of this condition. Drinking of irritating or hot drinks can also lead to development of a swollen uvula due to the probable effects it may carry. Moreover, the ingestion of hot or irritating drinks can harm other parts of the mouth particularly when done in frequency.

Symptoms of Swollen Uvula

Uvulitis or an inflamed uvula is not a disease but a swelling of the mass caused by other health problems. Having a swollen uvula can be an indication of a potential entry of bacteria and other microorganisms into the respiratory and digestive tract. Some of the symptoms are discussed below:

  • Sore throat: This is the most common symptom of uvulitis. It comes along with dryness that interferes with one’s comfort. Throat tightness and irritation are some of the major complaints by many patients.

  • Breathing difficulties: Due to a swollen uvula, the affected person may find it difficult to swallow food particularly if the swelling has also interfered with the tonsils thus making it difficult to swallow.

  • Pain: The pain is felt around the throat area and is part of the inflammation process alongside other responses from inflammation. Patients usually complain of having headaches.

  • Swollen tonsils: Inflammation of the tonsils and the area surrounding it lead to patient discomfort.

  • Hoarse voice: A swollen uvula interferes with the voice quality. Voice hoarseness should be expected when the uvula becomes swollen.

  • Pus formation: This is a consequence of the development of an infection.

  • High fever: Infection has occurred which leads to a febrile episode.

When to See a Doctor

In most cases, a swollen uvula may not require instant medical attention. You should see a doctor as soon as you begin experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain in uvula

  • Difficulty in breathing

  • Uneasiness resulting from lack of sufficient oxygen

  • Severe pain or difficulty in swallowing

  • Uneasiness due to lack of oxygen

  • Grunting and choking

  • Pus or blood from uvula (rupture)

How Can It Be Treated?

Medical Treatment

Here are 3 medications for treating a swollen uvula:

  • Antibiotics: These should be used only when the root cause of uvilitis is a bacterial infection. And it is highly recommended to follow a full course of the treatment to get rid of the swollen uvula completely.

  • Steroids: These should be prescribed if the cause of uvulitis is an allergic reaction to help reduce redness, swelling and pain.

  • Antihistamines: These are helpful for reducing the itching caused by a swollen uvula.

Home Remedies

Below are some of the home remedies that can help you treat swollen uvula:

  • In case dehydration is the root cause of a swollen uvula, drink lots of water. Drink at least 10 - 12 glasses per day. You may also drink orange juice to help hydrate your body to speed up the recovery process.

  • Mix ½ a tablespoonful of turmeric in a glass of water and add 2 – 3 ice cubes, this works best for treating uvulitis. Drink the mixture after 5 minutes.

  • Add a pinch of salt in lukewarm water and drink (gargling). This is an effective way of treating inflammation and pain of the uvula.

  • Consume more honey. Its anti-bacteria properties are very effective in treating uvulitis.

  • Chew 2 - 3 cloves of garlic on a daily basis. This relieves pain and irritation in the uvula.

  • Drink tea made with basal leaves to help treat uvulitis.

  • Chew ice chips for as long as your throat can sustain, the cold helps relieve swelling by numbing the area for a short time.


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