Epiglottis is a flap of elastic cartilage tissue that is covered with a mucous membrane and is found attached to the base of the tongue. When it swells or gets inflamed, it causes a lot of discomfort to the bearer (can occur in both kids and adults). The condition is marked by some uncomfortable signs. Some of the symptoms of swollen epiglottis in children as well as in adults are abnormal breathing sounds called stridor, fever, chills, shaking, drooling, discoloration of the skin (mostly cyanosis), difficulty in breathing, swallowing, and hoarseness of voice. Any one can develop this condition, hence having a deep knowledge of it is extremely mandatory.
Why does the Epiglottis Get Swollen?
➜ The most common cause of a swelling in the epiglottis is its inflammation along with that of the surrounding tissue. The condition of an inflamed epiglottis is medically termed as 'epiglottis'.
➜ The major factor that leads to an inflamed epiglottis is infection caused by a wide variety of micro-organisms. These include bacteria like Streptococcus pneumoniae, fungus like Candida albicans, and viruses like Varicella zoster and Haemophilus influenza.
➜ Physical trauma can be another crucial factor. Physical injury may include a direct blow to the throat, scald burns on the neck or face, and burns caused by drinking very hot fluids.
➜ Other causes may include swallowing a chemical and foreign object that burns the throat, smoking drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine (in adults), etc.
Diagnosis of the Condition
➜ The treatment of swollen epiglottis completely depends upon the diagnosis and cure of the underlying factors. Diagnosis begins with a physical examination of the patient. The doctor takes a close look at the condition of the epiglottis to check if it is red or swollen.
➜ He/she may take a small amount of cells from the epiglottis and put the sample cells on a piece of cotton wool or swab. The sample will then be sent to a pathology lab for the correct determination of the infection-causing microbe.
➜ The patient may also be asked to undergo a blood test to detect if there is an increase in the number of any microbe or immune cells. If the doctor fails to get sufficient information to determine the exact cause, he/she may then take the help of advanced techniques, like X-ray and nasopharyngoscopy. Both these techniques are employed to observe the enlargement and redness of the epiglottis.
➜ In mild to moderate cases, the doctor will most likely prescribe medicines to curb the growth of the causative microbe. Such medicines include antibiotics and antiviral and antifungal drugs.
➜ If the symptoms take a serious turn and involve complications like blockage of the airways, urgent medical attention may be required. The patient will be given oxygen in order to improve his/her breathing and blood circulation.
➜ The patient may be put on a machine called ventilator to improve the breathing. If the swelling in the epiglottis has blocked the windpipe, the doctor may perform tracheostomy. It involves making a small cut in the windpipe so that a tube can be inserted into the airways to supply oxygen to the lungs.
➜ Tracheostomy may or may not need a ventilator to help the patient breathe through the pipe. Sometimes, the doctor gives the patient bronchodilators through a nebuliser. Bronchodilators are drugs that reduce any swelling or the sticky mucus blocking the windpipe. This helps oxygen reach the lungs.
In addition to medical treatment, patients may ease their condition to some extent with a few home remedies. Have a cup of tea mixed with a few teaspoons of honey, once a day, to alleviate the discomfort. Also, increase the daily intake of vitamin C to boost the immunity. A strong immune system fights the infection-causing microbes more effectively and allows the patient to recuperate faster.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.