A discreet but important organ located in the throat is often neglected. It is the uvula or uvula, which is located right in the center between the tonsils. Although it may not seem like it, this small organ and its good health play an important role in human life.
The uvula is the most important element of the soft palate, it consists of smooth muscle cells and a variety of blood vessels. In a normal, healthy state, the organ is small enough that people don’t even feel it. When the uvula becomes inflamed and significantly enlarged, this may indicate the presence of a serious disease.
This organ serves to perform many important functions in the nasopharynx area, such as controlling the entry and exit of food, among others. Its malfunction can cause ailments that could even endanger a person’s life.
What is the uvula?
The uvula is a small muscle, made up of connective tissue that hangs over the back edge of the soft palate. It is basically made up of smooth muscle cells, covered by a mucous membrane and supplied with many blood vessels. This characteristic causes it to increase in size and become alarmingly red when the organ is inflamed.
Anatomically, the uvula is located along the midline of the mouth and begins from the roof of the mouth at the back of the larynx.
The palatal tongue together with the soft palate actively participates in phonation, that is, the formation of sounds. In addition to this, the uvula along with other structures of the oral cavity is responsible for the formation of snoring, these, in turn, are one of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (CAS).
What is the uvula for?
The uvula serves to control the entry and exit of food into the digestive tract. Helps keep food from coming back. If food touches the uvula, a throat spasm immediately occurs in order to prevent it from coming out. Therefore, the uvula acts as a protective septum during the process of ingestion of food. In the absence of a uvula, food could enter the nasal cavity, causing discomfort and complications.
Importance of the uvula
There are cases of people who do not have a uvula, this can occur as a result of a birth defect or surgery. Although they manage to adapt and manage this deficiency, they do not have effective protection of the nasopharynx, like those who have a uvula. For example, they are constantly at risk of choking even on their own saliva. So, the presence of the uvula is an important achievement of evolution, so the state of this organ must be carefully monitored.
Function of the uvula
The combination of the muscular movements of the uvula and the soft palate elevates the hard palate so that food and liquids pass through the oral cavity and into the pharynx. Despite its tiny size and seemingly insignificance, the uvula performs a number of important functions for the body.
The location of the uvula in the throat of the human being is very relevant, since it performs essential functions for the digestive system, for the functioning of speech and for the protection of the respiratory organs:
- Because it is partially blocking the throat, it can prevent the entry of external agents that could cause infections.
- Thanks to the abundant presence of blood vessels, the uvula heats the air, protecting the nasopharynx from the adverse effects that the cold could generate.
- It acts as a barrier against air flows, divides them and directs them in a suitable way for the body.
- Divide the chewed food that is eaten.
- If necessary, especially in cases of poisoning, it is capable of inducing vomiting by reflex action.
- To some extent, the uvula prevents foreign objects from freely entering the larynx.
- In the presence of foreign bodies, the uvula contributes to the formation of a cough. In this way, it favors the expulsion of agents that could damage or cause diseases.
- It is an active part of the set of organs responsible for the function of speech.
- Divide the throat into two areas, this is important because it prevents simultaneous inflammation of both glands.
Taking into account the location of the process and its role, the disease of the organ due to infection and the presence of an inflammatory process can lead to serious danger and requires immediate treatment by an ENT specialist.
Diseases of the uvula are often completely unpredictable and in most cases develop rapidly. The main disease of the uvula is known as uvulitis or inflammation of the uvula.
Uvulitis or inflammation of the uvula
Inflammation usually occurs spontaneously. A person can go to sleep completely healthy and wake up in the morning with a severe pain in the throat.
In addition to pain, inflammation of the uvula causes a sensation of a lump that blocks the throat, preventing swallowing. Many patients with this disease also manifest the sensation of nausea. When the doctor looks inside the patient’s mouth, he can see that the throat is red. In addition, the uvula is edema and its size has increased considerably, in many cases up to three times normal.
If a person feels discomfort in that area, they should pay attention to the appearance of the following symptoms:
- Sensation of the presence of a foreign body or lump in the throat.
- Pain and difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing.
- Problems articulating or emitting speech correctly.
- Profuse salivation
If the patient has at least three of these symptoms, he should urgently consult a doctor. Otherwise the uvula could swell so much that it would end up blocking the airways, causing suffocation. This could lead to the death of the patient or the lack of oxygenation of the brain, with tissue ischemia.
Causes of uvulitis
Most often, uvulitis develops as a result of:
- Infectious diseases of the oral cavity and nose caused by the presence of viruses or pathogens.
- Chronic or acute tonsillitis.
- Allergic reactions of various types.
- Dental diseases accompanied by the formation of purulent secretions.
- Neoplasms of the ENT organs, both benign and malignant.
- Burns from contact with hot elements or chemicals.
- The use of certain medications, particularly those that are prescribed for hypertension.
In addition, attention should be paid to the concomitant factors of the development of this disease, these could be:
- Unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking high alcohol.
- Chronic snoring problems during sleeping hours.
- Even minor burns of the nearby mucous membranes of the palate.
- Hypothermia caused by the ingestion of cold drinks or by breathing without protection in environments where the air is too cold.
With the help of a mirror, the development of the inflammatory process can be easily observed. However, you should not resort to self-medication. It is recommended that a doctor determine the cause of the disease and prescribe an appropriate treatment.
In no case should the uvula be manipulated, as it could become inflamed and put health and life at risk. Only in strictly necessary cases, the qualified doctor will be able to recommend the removal of this organ.
In case of possible infections, it is best to visit the doctor to diagnose and prescribe treatment.
Conclusion importance of the uvula
Despite its small size, the uvula fulfills a number of quite important functions. This is reason enough to take optimal care of it and avoid habits that put its good health and functioning at risk.