My Experience With Uvulitis (Not Fun)
Uvulitis Is Not Fun
The uvula is the bit of tissue that hangs down in the back of your throat. A swollen uvula is very uncomfortable and can cause anxiety. Even if it is not blocking the airway significantly, it may feel like it is, or that it is about to swell more.
The swollen uvula elongates and hangs down behind the tongue, or lays on top of it. The width can swell, as well. It is often accompanied by a sore throat. It can be caused by a mechanical trauma, such as an airway intubation. Other possible causes are environmental issues like allergies, or an allergic reaction to a medicine.
Read on to learn more about uvulitis and my personal experience with this condition.
I had a major internal struggle about posting a photo of a swollen uvula. I didn't think to take one of my own and besides, they are very disgusting. If you are dying to see more swollen uvula photos, Google will happily supply you with plenty if you search for them.
Swollen Uvula - My Personal Experience
Last year my friend posted about her swollen uvula on Facebook. I posted back, "Shouldn't you be talking to your gynecologist about that?" I am funny like that. It was easy to be funny since I wasn't the one dealing with it. That changed today.
I woke up this morning with a very sore throat and a funny feeling in my mouth. I stuck my toothbrush in my mouth to check out the back of my throat. Imagine my surprise when I couldn't see it at all! This had a negative effect on the actual pain I could feel. Feeling like your airway is closing up can do that!
I did what most people would do these days: I consulted "Dr. Google." I learned that while this condition is often benign, since it is a form of angiodema, the swelling can increase unexpectedly or other parts of your neck and face can start to swell.
What is angiodema?
Angiodema is swelling in the deep layers of skin. It often shows up on the face. It is often harmless and can resolve without medical intervention.
Angiodema can affect the soft tissues in your mouth: the uvula, throat, and tongue. Severe swelling may completely block the airway. This leads to unconsciousness and death without proper medical intervention.
So, angiodema doesn't sound like very much fun, does it? I decided to go to urgent care. Like many people, I do not have health insurance, so it was not a decision I took lightly. Finally my husband convinced me by saying, "It's your AIRWAY!" So, I went.
I am going to tell you exactly how my appointment went, what my doctor said, what she prescribed, and what self-care steps were recommended. I am not suggesting you should do these things or that you will have the same experience at your doctor. Part of my experience and treatment recommendations were due to a sore/strep throat and partly to the swollen uvula. (Whew, disclaimer over.)
When I got to urgent care I had to go through the registration process, vitals check, and the mandatory long wait in the exam room. When the doctor came she asked me when it started, how it felt, if it had happened before, if I had been sick recently, etc. Standard stuff. She checked my ears, lungs, nose, and of course, my throat. She really couldn't see much because it was so swollen. She said that swollen uvulas are pretty common. She also said they were often caused by strep throat. She swabbed my throat for a rapid strep test (major gag) and said she would be back.
When she came back she said the rapid strep test was negative. She was going to send it for the 24 hour test, but decided against it. I suspect she chose that since I have no insurance. She said she planned to treat me the same way she would for a positive strep test anyway. I am glad I don't have to pay for lab work.
She prescribed me a 10 day course of amoxicillin and a steroid shot in the hip. My preschooler said, "That is almost your butt." Thanks, baby. The doctor also recommend gargling with warm salt water and taking ibuprofen for the pain and swelling.
The nurse came in and gave me my shot. The needle didn't really hurt. A few minutes later it started to burn, though. Twelve hours later the uvula swelling is vastly improved. It was worth a little burn.
I had a bit of an internal struggle about taking the amoxicillin. I do not take antibiotics at the drop of the hat and I like to have proof that it is needed. I decided to go ahead just in case. Strep can lead to some horrible problems if not treated and since I don't have insurance I could not see myself choosing to come back to the doctor again soon.
The doctor also said that if my voice started to sound muffled, I started drooling, I had difficulty swallowing, or felt like I couldn't breathe then it was a medical emergency and I should be seen in the ER.
Causes of Swollen Uvula - Swollen Uvula is Called Uvulitis
These are in no particular order. Some items are direct causes of uvulitis and some are causes of any type of angiodema. The cause of uvulitis cannot always be pinpointed, even by a doctor. That is one of the most frustrating things to me!
- Allergic reaction to a medicine.
- Allergic reaction to something inhaled, touched, imbibed, or eaten.
- Mechanical trauma, such as an airway intubation.
- Excessive smoking or drinking alcohol.
- A physical problem like cancer or an ulcer of the uvula.
- Acid reflux of stomach contents.
- A viral or bacterial infection including HIB, strep, oral herpes, and candida (yeast infection).
Uvulitis Self-Care Tips
- Eat cool or cold foods that slide right down such as milkshakes, ice cream, and smoothies. Chewing ice can help too, but be cautious of damaging your teeth.
- If your throat is sore, avoid citrus foods or anything else acidic. Also, avoid scratchy type foods such as chips that might further irritate your swollen uvula when swallowed.
- If you are in pain take ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Ibuprofen will not only help with pain, but also the swelling. Follow the manufacturer's directions for both medications.
- Drink water. Uvulitis can be caused by dehydration. If you have been drinking alcohol heavily, or you've been ill, it is very likely you are dehydrated. If you aren't sure if you might be dehydrated, go ahead and drink some water. It won't hurt. Sip small amounts of water at frequent intervals. You can also use sports drinks. Do not chug water or drink large amounts quickly.
- If you smoke, give your body a break. This is the perfect time to quit, but you should at least cut back at this time. It will help your body recover.
- Gargle with warm salt water. Salt water is good for sore throats or mouth infections and swollen uvula is no different. Personally I just dump some salt into water without measuring it, stir it up, and then gargle. It isn't necessary to follow a recipe, but a common one is to mix 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of salt in 8 oz of warm water.
- If you get uvulitis more than once, and haven't been evaluated by a doctor, then make an appointment. Since possible causes of uvulitis can be caused by serious conditions, like herpes or cancer, it is important to receive proper care.
From the look of the search terms people use to find this site, a lot of people get uvulitis repeatedly. I am adding a little poll to see if I can get some data on that.
Have you had a swollen uvula, also known as uvulitis, more than once?
Uvulitis Video Made By A Doctor
I found this neat video on uvulitis today. It actually contains a lot of the information I was given at the emergency room and that is covered in this page. It has been put together really well. Check it out!
This article is based on my own experience, as well as medical advice I received for my condition. You are responsible for yourself and your health care. If you are unsure what to do, always consult a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional.
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