Uvula is the small, fleshy projection that dangles from the soft palate in the back of the mouth. Uvula functions include filtering of bacteria and other microorganisms from entering the digestive tract. It also prevents food particles from entering the nasal cavity, while swallowing. Uvula is also said to play an important role in articulation of sounds. Normally, dilator muscles hold back the uvula from sagging. But, in some people, sagging of uvula occurs due to poor muscle tone. Partial sagging of uvula may cause snoring, because, it blocks the airways partially. In some people, the uvula may completely block the airways and may lead to a condition called obstructive sleep apnea. Apart from poor muscle tone, structural abnormalities of the uvula may also be a reason for airway blockage. In the above said conditions, doctors suggest removal of uvula, which is an optional treatment in most cases.
More about Uvulectomy
As mentioned above, uvula removal is usually recommended in people with severe snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. But, such surgery is resorted to, only when all others modes of treatment fail to achieve any results. Usually, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) and laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) are the common surgical methods of removing the uvula. In case of UPPP, the tissues of the uvula, the soft palate, adenoids, tonsils and the pharynx, are removed. This surgery may include or exclude any of the above said parts from the surgery. Sometimes, removal of tonsil and uvula may be suggested. In some cases, only tissues from the soft palate and uvula may be removed. UPPP may cause some major complications. So, this surgery is done rarely.
Another surgical method for uvula removal is LAUP, which is an out-patient procedure. In this surgery, the uvula and the surrounding region is anesthetized and the uvula is severed with the help of electrocautery (which is beneficial for arresting bleeding). It will take around one month for uvulectomy recovery. The patient may be subjected to food restrictions for a few days after the surgery. LAUP is the most common form of uvulectomy. While some of the patients get immediate relief (from snoring and sleep apnea) once they remove the uvula, for some others, this surgery may not be that effective.
Possible Side Effects
It is said that the chances of complications are much higher in UPPP, as compared to LAUP. However, even the latter is not completely free of side effects. Some patients experience severe pain for a few days after LAUP, which is also said to cause obstructive sleep apnea in some patients, who had undergone the surgery to stop snoring. Another side effect associated with uvula removal is nasal regurgitation, which is caused by the food entering the nasal cavity. Permanent or temporary voice alteration may also develop in some of those, who had undergone the surgery. Some people experience drainage into the nasal cavity. Even sleep disturbances can be caused by removal of the uvula. Partial removal is sometimes preferred to total uvulectomy, as the latter is mostly associated with side effects like dry throat. Those who have undergone total uvulectomy is also found to develop a feeling of a lump in the throat. As in case of any other surgical procedure, a very small risk of bleeding, swelling and infection is also there.
After the surgery, the patient may be required to take analgesics to relieve pain. Even antibiotics may be prescribed, so as to prevent infection. Blood-thinning medication should be avoided for at least a week, to avoid the risk of bleeding. Avoid hot food and drinks for a few days after the surgery. If possible, have cold ones that may relieve pain and swelling. Take rest and avoid talking too much. Follow the instructions of your doctor. In short, uvula removal is generally not done, if the condition of the patient can be treated with other methods. So, if a doctor suggests uvulectomy for any uvula problem, make sure to seek the opinion of some expert otolaryngologists, before resorting to this surgical treatment method.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.