Your uvula is the little fleshy hanging ball in the back of your throat. As part of your soft palate, it helps prevent food and liquid from going up your nose when you swallow. It also secretes saliva to keep your mouth hydrated.
Your uvula — sometimes called the palatine uvula — is that little piece of teardrop-shaped tissue that hangs from the back of the roof of your mouth.
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Experts still don’t fully understand all the reasons why people have uvulas. It seems the primary purpose of your uvula is to secrete saliva to moisten your mouth and throat. But it also aids in eating and drinking. For example, your soft palate (the back of the roof of your mouth) and uvula move backward when you swallow. This prevents food and liquid from going up your nose. And in many languages, such as German and French, your uvula helps you form certain sounds.
Your uvula is also part of your gag reflex. When something touches this area of your soft palate, it could induce gagging or vomiting. Think of it as a safety feature. If your uvula senses that something is going down the “wrong way,” it course corrects in an effort to avoid choking.
Chances are, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the fleshy little ball hanging from the roof of your mouth. Here are some interesting facts you might not know about uvulas:
Your uvula is part of your soft palate (the back part of the roof of your mouth). This little flap of tissue hangs down near the back of your throat. You can see it if you open your mouth wide and look in a mirror.
Your uvula resembles a punching bag or teardrop. Some people have uvulas that are more oval-shaped.
Generally, your uvula should be pinkish in color with possible variations of red, purple or brown.
Your uvula is made of connective tissue, muscle fibers and glands.
Certain conditions can affect your uvula, including:
Several different infections can cause uvulitis, including strep throat, the flu, mononucleosis and croup. But you can also get a swollen uvula from seasonal allergies. Chronic snoring can lead to uvulitis as well.
When the tip of your uvula is white, it could be due to uvular necrosis. This may happen after being intubated (having a tube placed down your throat) for surgery under general anesthesia. This issue usually resolves itself in a couple of weeks.
A deviated uvula is one that leans to one side or the other. This often occurs if certain cranial nerves are weakened. Sometimes, injury results in a deviated uvula. Interestingly, people with peritonsillar abscesses often notice that their uvula leans to the opposite side, away from the infected tonsil.
Some people (about 2% of the U.S. population) have a uvula that’s split in two. This is a congenital condition, meaning people are born with it. A bifid uvula may be associated with cleft palate, though this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, it happens on its own.
Some people have an exceptionally long uvula. This is a variation of normal.
Most of the time, uvula treatments involve addressing swelling and inflammation. Treating the underlying cause is the most common approach. For example, if your uvula is swollen due to seasonal allergies, then antihistamines or steroids can help. If your uvula is swollen because of a bacterial infection, then antibiotics can play a role in reducing your symptoms.
Less commonly, some conditions, such as severe snoring or obstructive sleep apnea, may require surgical uvula removal. During this procedure, your surgeon removes either part or all of your uvula.
People who undergo uvula removal (uvulectomy) have a sore throat for several days after the procedure. Some may experience throat dryness, difficulty swallowing or the sensation that something is stuck in their throat.
If you need uvula removal, your healthcare provider will talk with you in detail about what to expect.
Yes. It’s totally possible to live without your uvula. While it may take some getting used to, most people don’t have trouble with speaking or swallowing after a uvulectomy.
Sometimes, your uvula may become so swollen that it touches your tongue. Occasionally, this may even trigger your gag reflex.
If you experience a swollen uvula, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. By treating the underlying cause of your swollen uvula, they can help you find relief faster. In the meantime, drink lots of fluids, get plenty of rest and try using a humidifier to keep the room air moist.
If you have a swollen uvula, call your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment. The best way to treat a swollen uvula is to address the underlying cause. In addition, you should:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your uvula is a tiny little organ that can do some pretty amazing things. Most of the time, medication and rest can treat a swollen or irritated uvula. But if your uvula is doing more harm than good, your healthcare provider might recommend uvula removal. Even if you need to have your uvula removed, you can still live comfortably without it. To learn more about conditions and treatments related to your uvula, talk to your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/06/2022.
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