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.


Arrow pointing to uvula in back of the throat
Your uvula hangs down in the back of your throat, near the back part of your soft palate.

What is a uvula?

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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What does the uvula do?

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.

What are some interesting facts about uvulas?

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:

  • “Uvula” means “little grape” in Latin.
  • Only humans have uvulas.
  • You can live without your uvula.



Where is the uvula located?

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.

What does a uvula look like?

Your uvula resembles a punching bag or teardrop. Some people have uvulas that are more oval-shaped.


What color is the uvula?

Generally, your uvula should be pinkish in color with possible variations of red, purple or brown.

What is the uvula made of?

Your uvula is made of connective tissue, muscle fibers and glands.

Conditions and Disorders

What are the common conditions that affect the uvula?

Certain conditions can affect your uvula, including:

Swollen uvula (uvulitis)

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.

White spots on your uvula

Most of the time, white spots on your uvula can develop when you have certain conditions, such as oral thrush, strep throat, tonsillitis or mononucleosis.

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.

Bump on your uvula

If you develop a lump or bump on your uvula, you may need a biopsy. While it could be a benign (noncancerous) growth, it’s important to rule out oropharyngeal cancer.

Deviating uvula

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.

Bifid uvula

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.

Elongated uvula

Some people have an exceptionally long uvula. This is a variation of normal.

What are some common uvula treatments?

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.

What happens if you remove the 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.

Can you live without a uvula?

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.

What if my uvula is touching my tongue?

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.


What helps a swollen uvula?

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:

  • Drink lots of water.
  • Use a humidifier in your room.
  • Use throat spray or suck on lozenges.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Eat cold foods to soothe the area.
  • Eat ice chips.
  • Avoid smoking.

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.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/06/2022.

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