The uvula is the structure that is visible at the back of the tongue when you open your mouth; it appears to be hanging and is often confused with the tonsils. Uvula comes from the Latin word for grape because it looks similar to a grape hanging from the roof of the mouth. When the uvula is swollen, this can be painful and it can interfere with swallowing. The main purpose of the uvula is to filter bacteria and micro-organisms to prevent them from travelling from the mouth to the digestive tract; the uvula also plays an important role in sound articulation and it is particularly important for singers and actors, who rely heavily on their voices.
What causes a swollen uvula?
There are many possible causes of swollen uvula, including dehydration, smoking, alcohol consumption, colds and coughs, viral and bacterial infections; changes in temperature can also cause swollen uvula. The medical name for swollen uvula is uvulitis.
What are the effects of uvulitis?
In most cases, uvulitis is a mild condition, which clears up without the need for treatment. Symptoms of uvulitis include a sore throat, a dry mouth, headaches, swollen tonsils, problems with swallowing (known as dysphagia), hoarseness and a desire to cough even when nothing comes up. Many people often feel that their throat feels itchy and tickly.
Like any condition affecting your mouth it can knock your confidence when around people, but there are ways of dealing with it, just like for missing teeth, for a yeast infection or whatever affliction you may have.
Coping with discomfort
There are various things you can do at home to help ease discomfort; one really important thing is to drink plenty of water, to keep your throat moist and prevent dehydration. If you think you have uvulitis, drinking between 8 and 12 glasses of water per day will help. Additional remedies also include drinking water or tea with honey, gargling with salt water and eating cold foods, such as ice cream, to soothe pain. There are also natural remedies that may help including chewing garlic cloves and adding turmeric to water and ice.
If you experience pain for more than 48 hours or the swelling is severe, you should consider seeing a doctor. In some cases, throat sprays and painkillers can be beneficial and antibiotics may be required if there is evidence of a bacterial infection. In cases of recurrent uvulitis, adrenalin shots may be recommended.