announcement

Help someone with useful health advice.

Uvula Infection

Uvula Infection

Uvula, which is a fleshy mass of tissue that is located at the back of the soft palate, could get inflamed due to trauma, allergic reactions, consumption of very hot food items and beverages, etc. The following write-up provides information on the contributing factors for an uvula infection, and ways to treat such an infection.
Rutuja Jathar
Last Updated: Apr 24, 2018
The term 'palatine uvula' refers to a small mass of tissue that hangs down from the middle of the soft palate, at the back of the throat. This conical projection is made of connective tissue, which in turn comprises racemose glands and muscle fibers. Uvula not only helps in the articulation of speech, but also works in tandem with the soft palate during the phase of swallowing. When we swallow food, muscles called levator veli palatini and tensor veli palatini elevate the soft palate and uvula, thereby closing off the nasopharynx (part of the pharynx that is located above and behind the soft palate). Thus, uvula and soft palate prevent food from entering the nasal cavity, thereby lowering the risk of choking.

The term 'uvulitis' refers to the inflammation of uvula. Though uvulitis is not very common, it may sometimes be observed in those who are affected by medical conditions such as pharyngitis, tonsillitis, epiglottitis, etc.

Contributing Factors

The incidence of uvulitis occurring alone is not very high. More often than not, inflammation of uvula occurs due to a throat infection that could be caused in the event of exposure to bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. While pathogens can enter the body through inhaled air, contact with an infected individual can also cause transmission of the disease-causing agents. Here are some of the conditions that could cause inflammation of the uvula or other anatomical structures of the throat.

◘ Infections
Inflammation of uvula may be due to bacterial and viral infections that cause inflammation of the pharynx, larynx, epiglottis, or tonsils. Streptococcus pyogenes is a strain of the Group A Streptococcus bacterium that is often responsible for causing inflammation of the pharynx. More often than not, uvulitis is observed in individuals affected by acute pharyngitis. Haemophilus influenzae type b, which is a gram-negative bacterium, could also cause inflammation of the epiglottis (the flap of cartilage that covers the windpipe) or the uvula. Uvula can also become inflamed due to a viral infection. The viruses that cause common cold, flu, or upper respiratory tract infections could also cause uvulitis.

◘ Trauma
Trauma to the uvula could occur due to diagnostic procedures such as intubation or endoscopy. While intubation refers to the insertion of a breathing tube, endoscopy involves the insertion of an endoscope, which is a long, thin tube that has a light and camera attached to it. Consumption of food items that are very hot or spicy could also irritate the uvula. People who get the uvula pierced are also at a risk of developing uvulitis.

Besides trauma and infections caused by pathogens, other contributing factors for uvulitis include:

➞ Acid Reflux (regurgitation of gastric juices from the stomach to the esophagus)
➞ Dehydration
➞ Smoking
➞ Alcohol abuse
➞ Deep snoring
➞ Canker sores
➞ Inhalation of cocaine at an elevated temperature

Associated Symptoms

While the characteristic symptoms of an uvula infection are redness and swelling of the uvula, the accompanying symptoms are likely to be the ones that are experienced during a throat infection. This is mainly attributed to the fact that uvulitis usually occurs in association with pharyngitis or epiglottitis. The symptoms that may be experienced by the affected individual include:

➞ Difficulty in swallowing or breathing
➞ Sore throat
➞ Dry throat
➞ Fever
➞ Loss of appetite
➞ Drooling
➞ Malaise
➞ Choking or gagging
➞ Hoarse voice

Treatment

The treatment would vary, depending on the underlying cause. Though the use of over-the-counter drugs may prove beneficial in case of mild swelling or inflammation, medical help must be sought if the symptoms are severe. The treatment may involve the use of analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, antihistamines, corticosteroids, etc.

The drugs that would be prescribed would vary, depending on the type of infection. For instance, antihistamines would be prescribed if the inflammation occurs in response to an allergic reaction. Broad-spectrum antibiotics such as amoxicillin or azithromycin are likely to be prescribed for a person affected by strep throat or bacterial pharyngitis. Following certain self-care measures can also prove beneficial. These include:

➞ Since dehydration or dry throat can be a contributing factor, it would be best to increase the intake of water.
➞ Gargling with lukewarm saline water will surely provide relief.
➞ Refrain from consuming food or beverages that are too hot or cold.
➞ Having lozenges or herbal tea will also help soothe the irritated throat.

Though the symptoms of mild uvulitis can subside even with the help of home remedies, there's a need to determine if an uvula infection is associated with epiglottitis or acute pharyngitis. Thus, it would be best to consult an otolaryngologist for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for information purpose only. Do not use the information presented herein as a substitute for medical practitioner's advice.