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What Is Uvulitis?

Medical attention may be required to evaluate inflammation of the uvula.
Individuals suffering from uvulitis may experience difficulty swallowing liquids.
It is theorized that smoking may contribute to inflammation of the uvula.
Constricted air movement when snoring may result in uvula inflammation.
Antibiotics may help treat uvulitis.
Repeated inflammation of the uvula may require surgical removal.
Uvulitis is the inflammation and enlargement of the small dangling piece of oral tissue is located at the back of the throat.
A sore throat is usually the first sign of uvulitis.
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  • Written By: Misty Wiser
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 01 August 2014
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Uvulitis is the inflammation and enlargement of the uvula. This small dangling piece of oral tissue is located at the back of the throat, and it can easily be seen when the mouth is open. Touching the uvula activates the gag reflex, and if the tissue is swollen, a person may constantly experience a gagging sensation. The condition normally subsides within 24 hours, but if it persists more than a day, an individual should see a healthcare professional so that it can be evaluated.

Symptoms of uvulitis usually begin with a sore throat. A person may later notice pain when trying to swallow food or liquid. The uvula may become so enlarged that it touches the back of the throat or the tongue, and this can cause the sensation of having a lump in the throat or activate the gagging reflex. Air flow may become restricted through the throat by a swollen uvula, causing breathing problems. Snoring may cause this problem or become more noticeable when the uvula is inflamed.

Many different factors may prompt the inflammation. The most common cause is either a viral or bacterial infection, although an allergic reaction to an inhaled allergen may cause a life-threatening swelling. A person should seek out emergency medical treatment if allergic uvulitis is suspected.

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Other possible causes have not been proven. It is believed that cigarette smoking may cause irritation to the mucus membrane covering the body of the uvula. The delicate covering may also become inflamed after breathing in hot, dry air. Constricted air movement during snoring is thought to result in a swollen uvula.

Treatment of uvulitis varies depending on the source of the inflammation. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection. Viral infections are treated symptomatically, and an antiseptic mouth spray can be used to numb the sore uvula and prevent the growth of other microbes. Corticosteroids and an antihistamine may be prescribed to further reduce the inflammation. Some people gargle saltwater for 15 to 20 seconds to act as an antiseptic painkiller.

The uvula may need to be surgically removed if repeated inflammation and enlargement occurs over time, and this is done during a procedure called an uvulectomy. Excising the uvula is recommended to treat obstructive sleep apnea and reduce snoring. After the uvulectomy, painkillers and antibiotics may be prescribed for up to ten days. Cold food, like ice cream, may make the healing period more comfortable.

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anon326712
Post 3

I'm 49 (M) and this is the first time in my life I've ever had uvulitis; it came about as a side effect of dual ear/throat infections. The doc has me on antibiotics and numbing spray as mentioned in article.

The uvula contains sensitive glands so I would think that piercing it is definitely something one should not do.

ceilingcat
Post 2

@Monika - That is my fun fact for the day. I didn't know the uvula had an effect on anything except the gag reflex! I do know that when someone intentionally makes themselves throw up, they trigger their gag reflex by touching their uvula.

However, not everyone has a sensitive gag reflex. I actually met someone once who had their uvula pierced! This seems pretty risky to me, especially now that I've read this article. I'm sure that if the piercing got infected it could result in uvulitis.

Monika
Post 1

Wow! Who would have thought such a tiny body part could cause so many problems!

Most people don't pay too much attention to the uvula, but it actually plays a big role in speech. There are many sounds that couldn't be made without the uvula. One example is the "clicking" sound that is used in some African languages.

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