A bifid uvula is when the uvula, which is a forked structure, is split in the center. It appears right at the back of the throat, in front of the tonsils which makes up the soft palate portion of one's mouth. Bifid uvula in children is a common phenomenon, where doctors notice this feature upon inspection. It's also called a cleft uvula, where the tissues during development in the womb, don't mesh together to form a fused part of the maxillary processes and medial nasal, but rather a split in the center. It doesn't occur frequently, but when it does, it forms a slight deformity in the nose and mouth area. Native Americans are highly prone to getting a bifid uvula. It is said that a bifid uvula is a common symptom in the genetic syndrome called Loeys-Dietz, which is connected to a situation of aortic aneurysm, which is a swelling of the aorta.
How to Identify a Bifid Uvula
Bifid uvula syndrome, is associated with a condition named submucous cleft palate, which is most commonly witnessed in those having a cleft palate or lip. If someone were to speak in a nasal like tone, they are evaluated to check if they have a submucous cleft palate. It is a thin strip of lining, right in the center, at the edge of the hard palate, and can be felt with one's fingertip. Some children upon examination don't have a cleft in their palate, but still experience problems that are similar to that of a cleft palate. These require further tests, which include a nasopharyngoscopy and an x-ray examination, to evaluate the inside of one's nose, to view the palate. Other problems that come up with uvulas, is an uvula infection and even a case of uvula swelling, where people need medical attention for both health problems.
Bifid Uvula Genetics and Problems
The fork-shaped uvula varies from one person to the next, and isn't as strong as a fully developed uvula. It can cause quite a bit of medical problems like;
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm.
- Impaired speech.
- Middle ear infections.
- The soft palate being undeveloped, can cause one to allow food/liquids into nasal cavity, if the palate doesn't make contact with the back of the throat while one swallows. This would cause pressure to push food upward, rather than downward.
A submucous cleft palate, is when the soft palate of one's mouth has a cleft in it, that is, a split in the uvula. It lacks the muscular tissue needed in order to develop fully and is like I mentioned before, associated with a bifid uvula. A bifid uvula in some cases is hereditary; some live out their lives without any of the above mentioned problems of a cleft uvula.
Bifid Uvula Treatment
Usually those who get a submucous cleft palate treated, experience speech abnormalities, since there is a loss of air in the nose, not allowing one's vocals to come out right. Here are different ways in which you can get uvula problems sorted out.
- Speech pathology can help your child/you, after a pathologist diagnoses the problem. This takes place when the palate stops air from coming through the nose as one speaks, called velopharyngeal incompetence (VPI).
- Consult a physician, for problems related to ear infections. He/she can prescribe some antibiotics or insert what is called a ventilating tube, into the eardrum, which is a surgical insertion to help him/her hear and speak better.
- A dental specialist too can help out with an artificial means of fitting a contraption to your teeth and mouth, to help out with a submucous cleft palate problem.
- You can surgically get it fixed or put yourself through speech therapy activities.
- A feeding consultant can help out with special techniques in helping you or your child with swallowing problems.
- An advanced procedure to surgically correct this problem would be to reconstruct the abnormal tissues of the bifid uvula, by a palatal repair which could possibly have a pharyngeal flap, known as pharyngoplasty, depending on the procedure. This surgical procedure, will help one to speak better and is handled by a professional team of cleft palate surgeons.
Dealing with a bifid uvula sounds drastic in terms of living with it, but most people with one don't show signs of any of the problems mentioned here. It affects only a small percentage of people, with a possibility of being able to pass down from one family member to the next. Good luck.