The commonly reported uvula removal side effects are nasal regurgitation, change in voice, and disturbance in sleep pattern. A partial removal could be a reliable approach to minimize the probable side effects. In this HealthHearty post, we will discuss the topic in detail.
Uvula is the small fleshy mass protruding downwards from the soft palate in the back of the mouth. There are no characteristic functions of a uvula as an isolated organ. It works in coordination with the soft palate, inhaled air and back of throat portion to produce specific sounds.
Another major function is to prevent food entry into the breathing passage at the time of swallowing. Removing uvula is indicated for some medical problems, but one should discuss the negatives of uvula removal with the concerned doctor before getting the surgery.
Before we deal with the side effects, let’s try to understand the purpose for performing this surgery and the procedure. Anatomically speaking, this fleshy mass is made up of connective tissues, muscle fibers, and some glands. Also referred to as uvulectomy, the procedure is performed to treat severe cases of sleep apnea, heavy breathing, and snoring issues. All these are resulted due to elongated uvula problem, which either blocks the air passageway or vibrates during breathing.
A commonly reported uvula condition is abnormal enlargement or swelling. Remember that the surgery is not applicable for addressing swelling of the uvula; it is a completely different health condition. For such a case, the treatment approaches vary according to swollen uvula causes. But, there is no need for a uvula removal surgery to treat the swelling, unless the condition is something very serious.
There are two types of surgery conducted:
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) – the surgery may require the removal of any of the parts―soft palate, tonsils, adenoids, uvula tissues, and pharynx.
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) – a section or whole uvula is excised for snoring treatment.
As expected, the recovery period is shorter in case of laser assisted procedure. Also, there are less side effects and complications associated with this minimally invasive technique.
In some African regions, removal of small parts of uvula, by a healing expert, is a custom. This rarely causes adverse effects as a small section is removed. Considering the fact that uvula is not a vestigial body part, side effects are evident after getting it removed. The question is severity of the adverse effects, of which some are manifested lifelong. There are also complications related to the surgical procedure, such as bleeding, inflammation, infections, sore throat, and drainage of fluids to nose.
After the removal, there is no longer a separation between the nose and throat regions while performing common activities like swallowing food, breathing, and speaking. Thus, nasal voice and eating problems (nasal regurgitation) are common. Since uvula plays a crucial part in sound production mechanism, one of the major side effects is permanent change in the voice. After getting it removed, the person finds difficulty in verbalizing words that have uvular ‘r’ phoneme in them.
Another reported side effect is constricting airways leading to the nose and throat. As a consequence, making audible sound during sleep and sleep apnea are manifested after removing uvula. Also, some people who have undergone surgery complain of breathing problems. This is specially due to scarring of tissues that result in tightening of the adjacent parts. Other effects are nasal drainage and pain in the incision sites.
In a nutshell, the side effects are obvious and some of them cannot be avoided. Partial uvula removal should be conducted as the last option for treatment, when other therapeutic intervention do not work. It makes sense, if the benefits of surgical treatment outweighs the probable side effects and complications. Thus, the effectiveness of this approach depends on the existing condition. The doctor is the best reference person to take guidance from, for comparing the positive and negative aspects of removing uvula.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.