Swollen Uvula (Throat)

Uvulitis is the medical term for an inflamed uvula. The process of inflammation causes swelling of the uvula and this may also be accompanied by pain and redness. Since the uvula is a suspended organ, inflammation will cause it to hang down more than usual or even touch the tongue apart from its horizontal  expansion.

The uvula may swell for a number of reasons and this is usually associated with inflammation of the neighboring mouth and throat structures.

Presentation of a Swollen Uvula

At times it is difficult to identify a swollen uvula from a normal uvula just based on its size and length. Anatomical variations may mean that the uvula is naturally long or big in some people. When elongated due to swelling, the uvula may appear to touch the tongue, however it is important to take note if the uvula is swollen or if it is the tongue that is inflamed (glossitis). In obese or overweight patients, the tongue may be raised upwards making the distance between the tongue and palate much smaller. In this case, the structures at the back of the throat, like the uvula,  may not be clearly visible.

Other signs and symptoms may help with identifying an enlarged uvula due to swelling and these include :

  • Redness of the uvula.
  • Pain which aggravates when the uvula is touched or during swallowing.
  • Sensation of a foreign body at the back of the mouth or throat.
  • Changes in the voice quality¬† from the normal tone.
  • Gagging.

In a case where the uvula become swollen due to edema without an infection or inflammation, then the uvula may appear enlarged and pale. This uvula edema is known as uvular hydrops or Quincke’s edema and typically occurs due to non-infectious causes like an allergy.

Causes of a Swollen Uvula

When identifying the cause of a swollen uvula, it is important to take note of other concomitant signs and symptoms. This will assist with a correct diagnosis as a swollen uvula is usually a symptom of an underlying condition rather than being a disorder on its own. Some causes of a swollen uvula include :

  • Infection. Throat infections like a strep throat will cause inflammation of the uvula along with surrounding throat structures like the the tonsils (tonsillitis) and pharynx (pharyngitis).
  • Allergy. Angioedema causes the uvula to swell (Quincke’s disease) and other signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction will also be evident, like swelling of the cheek, upper lip, around the eye, itchy throat, skin or eyes and/or an itchy skin rash.
  • Chemical trauma. Certain ingested substances, either food or drink, can cause irritation of the mouth and throat structures including the uvula. This includes acidic, spicy and hot substances or other known irritants. like alcohol. Mouth washes made of herbs and other chemicals that may cause irritation of the lining of the mouth and throat and may result in uvulitis.
  • Physical trauma to the mouth or throat by the deep insertion of large foreign bodies into the mouth – example endoscope or after intubation.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In severe cases, the rising gastric acid pools in the back of the throat, especially during sleep, and can inflame the structures at the back of the throat.
  • Nasal congestion or any other cause of mouth breathing will cause edema of the uvula where it will appear pale, yet swollen.
  • Dehydration may also cause a pale swelling of the uvula.
  • Snoring.
  • Uvula piercing.
  • Vomiting.
  • Mouth sores that may affect the uvula.
  • Post nasal drip.
  • Persistent coughing.
  • Peritonsillar abscess.
  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Narcotic use – smoking or ‘snorting’ narcotic drugs.
  • Prescription drugs.

The uvula tends to hang downwards (vertically) but may deviate laterally (to the side). The deviation of the uvula, along with swelling, may be a strong indication of a peritonsillar abscess or parapharyngeal abscess. A deviated uvula with no evident swelling may be due to a lesion of the vagus nerve, which is the cranial nerve that innervates the uvula.

Please note that any information or feedback on this website is not intended to replace a consultation with a health care professional and will not constitute a medical diagnosis. By using this website and the comment service you agree to abide by the comment terms and conditions as outlined on this page

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  • abdussalam

    My age is 50 years . when I was around 23 , I start suffering from semi continous tonsilitis and pharyngitis,I got tonsilectomy when I was 26 , But I continued to suffer from recurrent pharyngitis untill 40 yeas old,after that I stopped suffering from pharyngitis but my uvula began to inflame and congest till now .

    Note: I have mild postnasal drip ,
    X-rays to sinuses is always clear and no signs of inflammation.
    the inflammation is mild to middle ( not severe) during all the stages ( tonsilitis to pharyngitis to uvulitis) .
    So what is the diagnosis? please

    Answer by Dr. Chris

    Abdussalam,

    As you would have read on the terms of this comment service, we do not provide a diagnosis. We are here just to guide readers with seeking appropriate medical care. Considering that this condition is chronic, you should see an ENT specialist (ear-nose-throat or otolaryngologist). Further tests and so on will be necessary. Apart from post nasal drip, if you are a smoker then you need to stop smoking before considering treatment. GERD (acid reflux) may be another possible cause that needs to be dealt with as the acid can rise as high as the throat and cause persistent irritation. Refer to Chronic sore throat.

  • abdussalam

    I am 50 years old, when I was around 23 , I was suffering from tonsilitis and pharyngitis,I got tonsilectomy when I was 26 , But I continued to suffer from recurrent pharyngitis untill 40 , then I stopped suffering from pharyngitis but my uvula began to inflamme and congust till now ,
    note: I have post nasal drip
    X-rays from sinusis is clean
    the inflammation is always mild to middle with mild fever during all stages ( tonsilitis and pharyngitis and uvulitis )
    so what is the diagnosis ?please

  • beckakelly13

    ok so i have a swollen uvula and tonsils, my tongue is also swollen with red bumps in the back in the shape of a “v”. I have the worst body aches that i have ever experienced in my life. it is also very VERY hard to breath and it feels lie in going to swallow my uvula.. what is it and what do i do?

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Beckakelly13

    It is difficult to say whether these body aches and shortness of breath is related to the inflamed uvula and tonsils. If it is, it may be due to a viral infection and you need to see your doctor immediately. There are a number of causes as you can see above but the only way to diagnose it is for your doctor to examine you and possibly run further tests if necessary.

  • OrygunGirl

    I was prescribed, Baclofen, septra, Lyrica and Viromo. I woke up this morning and my uvula is touching the back of my tongue and sticking to it even though I drank a lot of liquid, my throat is sore and its causing discomfort and gagging. Could this be a cause of my mwdication? Note: I was just prescribed these last night so they are new to me.

  • Hi OryunGirl. It’s difficult to say with any certainty that your swollen uvula is related to these drugs. An enlarged uvula is not a common side effect with these drugs but this is not to say that it may not occur at all. An infection can start up very suddenly and cause the symptoms you are describing, and it may be unrelated to the drugs that you are using. Another possible cause may be related to the underlying condition for which you are taking the abovementioned medication. It would be advisable to consult with your doctor as soon as possible.

  • Shaelyn

    I’ve had a sore throat for days and nasal congestion causing me to sleep with my mouth open. But I slept with a humidifier on last night and woke up with a dry mouth and my uvula touching my tongue and it being painful when I swallow. Also I just drank some hot chamomile tea will that make the swelling go down?

  • Hi Shaelyn. It’s unlikely to help but if it is a viral infection then it may resolve on its own very soon. However, you should see a doctor because if it is a bacterial infection then you will need antibiotics. Days have already passed and delaying any further could lead to complications. The hot tea may have at most soothed the area but it will not be able to treat an infection.

  • Jade Rodney

    Hi I’m 13 years old I woke up with a swollen uvula I’m freaking out what should I take to fix this or should I cut it off plz help I’m scared

  • Katelynn Shayna

    Sometimes when I am sick, my uvula appears to hang extremely low. It feels like I have a bug or something at the back of my throat. It’s extremely irritating because my uvula touches the back of my tongue, and I gag. It’s also uncomfortable to swallow with a u uvula that gets in the way.

  • Hi Katelynn. It can happen during infections especially in people who may a longer uvula. By treating the throat infection, the inflammation of the uvula will subside and return to a size that is more comfortable.

  • JaneB

    My 25-year-old son has suffered with acid reflux since the day he was born. He vomited most of his infancy, couldn’t sleep more than 2 hours at time until he was about 18 months old. Back then, I don’t think the doctors were at a loss or maybe thought I was exaggerating. I tried several doctors and they always just gave me Mylicon drops. And thank God for one doctor who saved my son from suffering endlessly, when he was about 12 months old, and gave me paregoric (in extreme cases for when he didn’t sleep at all and driving around town at 3:00 in the morning was no longer a safe alternative). Then when my son was a toddler he started with prolonged antibiotic use due to ear infections. Needless to say, he has countless GI issues at the young age of 25. His uvula has almost eroded to the point of falling off. His uvula was elongated, but now it has stretched out and eroded so much that it is hanging on by a thread. Looks kind of like someone tightly tied a string around it and it’s just dangling. As a result of all of this reflux, he has stomach ulcers, difficulty gaining weight, and cannot eat a whole lot at one sitting. I am concerned about my son’s quality of life with all of these maladies. Can any of this damage be healed or is pretty much just preventative measures from here on out?

  • Patrizia Armfield

    Hi my son informed me that his ” punching bag” aka Uvula is very swollen, painful and uncomfortable … He always has sinus issues and my first thought was that it may be related .. Would salt water gargling help? Or should he seek medical attention ? TY