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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Swollen uvula

03/21/2006

Question:

This has happened twice in a year. Last night was not like the first but I woke up with the feeling of flem caught in my throat. knowing from the first experience, I knew this wasn`t the problem but was my uvula touching the back of my tongue. I know when I try to clear my throat, I can feel the uvula touch my tongue. What causes it to swell? My first experience I went to the ER (they were shocked at the size of my uvula)and then to an allergist. Tested, I had a slight tree nut allergy and ordered to stay away from tree nuts. ( I had a handful of cashews 6 hours prior.) I do not feel I am allergic to tree nuts because it was 6 hours later I had a problem and I`ve eaten them all my life. But to be sure, I have not eaten tree nuts. I am 43. Last night, my mouth was dry and I woke up on my back. Not sure of first time. Just recall having hard time to swallow. I do have Barretts Esophogus and take Protonics for my acid reflux. Thanks for your time.

Answer:

I suspect you may have mild sleep apnea, or at least, snore fairly heavily.  If you have some narrowing of your airway, either in the nose or throat, this tends to collapse and cause further obstruction when asleep.  You are then breathing against a partial obstruction that causes tissues to vibrate and create the snoring sound.  Sometimes the obstruction can be significant to the point of causing a complete but temporary cessation of breathing.  This is apnea, and if it occurs often enough through the night, can be a sign of sleep apnea.

Breathing against this partial or complete obstruction puts pressure and pull on the uvula, and may cause it to swell.  If you are breathing through your mouth mostly during the night, a common problem in snorers and sleep apneics, then this would make your throat quite dry.

I would recommend you see your physician and consider getting scheduled for a sleep study.  This is done through any one of a number of sleep labs throughout the city.

 

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Response by:

Allen M Seiden, MD Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati