What Causes a Swollen Uvula?

Your uvula -- the flesh that hangs in the back of your throat -- helps you swallow and speak. But you can run into problems if it's larger than normal. A swollen uvula can cause a sore throat, redness, trouble breathing or talking, or a choking feeling.

If your uvula is oversized, it's a sign from your body that something's not right. Sometimes the cause can’t be found. Other times, you'll need a doctor's care to treat the cause.

Infections

Infections can lead to a swollen uvula, including the flu, mononucleosis, croup, and strep throat. Even a common cold can cause your uvula to swell.

Depending on the type of infection, you may also have symptoms like:

Your throat may also be sore and red. See your doctor if you have a sore throat that lasts longer than a week.

To get rid of the swelling from an infection, you need to treat what's causing it. A doctor can tell you whether it's due to a virus or bacteria. Most infections caused by a virus don't have a treatment. You just wait for them to clear up. If the problem is caused by a bacteria, your doctor may suggest antibiotics to treat it.

While you wait for the infection to pass, you can:

  • Drink lots of water.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Use pain relievers, throat sprays, or other at-home remedies for sore throats.

Allergies

Puffed up skin or tissue is a common symptom of allergies. Your uvula might be bigger because of seasonal allergies to grass or pollen. Or the swelling might be because of dust or pet dander. Certain foods, such as milk, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and eggs, can cause allergic reactions, too.

If allergies are the cause of your swollen uvula, you might also have:

An allergist can help pinpoint what might be causing these symptoms. That way, you can avoid the allergy trigger in the future. You'll need medicine to help the swelling go down if it happens again.

For severe allergies, your doctor might suggest you get allergy shots that help your body get used to the allergy trigger.

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Injury

An injury to your uvula can make it swell. Common causes of injury include:

  • Intubation (your doctor puts a breathing tube in your throat)
  • Endoscopy (your doctor puts in a tube with a camera attached to view the digestive tract)
  • Complications from procedures such as tonsil removal
  • Damage from acid reflux (GERD) or frequent throwing up

As your uvula heals, the swelling will go down. Your doctor may also suggest pain medication or anti-inflammatory drugs to help with symptoms.

Medication

Some medicines may cause swelling, either because of an allergic reaction or because of how they interact with your body. Glucosamine sulfate, a medication for the joints, may cause a swollen uvula in some people. Even though NSAIDs like acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen treat inflammation, in some people they can cause swelling -- a rare condition called NSAID-induced angioedema.

Other drugs that may make your uvula swell include:

Your doctor can find a replacement medication if the swelling in your uvula is causing too many problems.

Snoring

In rare cases, snoring can cause your uvula to swell. If your snoring is vibrating your uvula heavily, it can irritate it and make it swell. This type of snoring may come from obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes loud snoring with periods of stopped breathing.

If you have sleep apnea, you may also:

  • Wake up with a sore throat
  • Often wake your partner
  • Feel sleepy during the day even after a full night's sleep
  • Have chest pain at night
  • Have high blood pressure

See your doctor if you think snoring might be the cause of your swollen uvula. Your doctor may want to do certain tests, like an X-ray or a sleep study, to observe your sleep. Your treatment will depend on various things, but you may be able to lessen your snoring if you:

  • Drop pounds if you're overweight
  • Cut back on alcohol, especially at bedtime
  • Use nasal decongestants
  • Sleep in a different position
  • Use a mouth guard
  • Wear a CPAP device to keep your airway open during sleep
  • Have surgery to open your airway

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Genetics

You may have inherited the cause of your swollen uvula from one or both of your parents. Hereditary angioedema (HAE) is a rare disorder that causes fluid to collect around the blood vessels and stop the flow of lymph fluid in your body. This makes tissues swell. If you have this rare condition, it's likely other parts of your body would also swell, including your hands, feet, eyelids, lips, and genital area.

Your doctor will need to give you a blood test to confirm a diagnosis of HAE. There's no cure, but medication can help prevent attacks.

Home Remedies for a Swollen Uvula

To help manage the symptoms of a swollen uvula, you can:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Try warm or cold foods to soothe the area.
  • Keep the air moist with a humidifier.
  • Suck on a lozenge to keep your throat moist.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on August 28, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

National Cancer Institute: "Uvula."

BMJ: "Long uvula: an unusual cause of chronic cough."

Journal of Neuroanaesthesiology Critical Care: "Uvular trauma caused by endotracheal tube."

Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology: "Edema of the Uvula: Etiology, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Food Allergy."

Mayo Clinic: "Allergies," "Influenza," "Common cold," "Strep throat," "Snoring," "Sore throat."

National Organization for Rare Disorders: "Hereditary Angioedema."

UpToDate: "NSAIDs (including aspirin): Allergic and pseudoallergic reactions."

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