Uvula is the dangly bit of flesh that hangs at the back of the throat and helps in preventing the food from entering the airways while swallowing and help in producing certain sound during speech. There are also some other functions of this organ.
Uvula comes from the Latin word ‘Uvola”, meaning “Small bunch of grapes.” Uvula can sometimes cause problems in some individuals, especially among the obese persons. If the interference made by the uvula becomes chronic or dangerous, doctors may adapt several surgical techniques to remove the uvula. There may be some side effects associated with uvula removal. In order to know about the functions of uvula and side effects of uvula removal, read the following array of the article.
Functions Of Uvula:
There may be many functions of Uvula, which are perhaps yet to be discovered. However, research has uncovered some of the functions of Uvula, which are discussed below.
An Accessory Organ Of Speech:
It has been suggested that the uvula prevents excessively nasal speech and is also used to produce uvular sound, found in French, Arabic and some of the West African languages. Moreover, it may also be used in producing palatal trill, which is used in some parts of the United Kingdom.
It is believed that the uvula is possibly an accessory organ of speech and may be a marker of human evolution that differentiates man from other mammals. However, there are some research that suggests removal of this organ does not have a significant negative effect on a person’s speech.
Keeps Your Throat Lubricated:
One of the known function of uvula is that it has ability to produce and secrete large quantities of thin saliva. Some people may experience dryness in their throat once their uvula is surgically removed.
When we speak or swallow, our uvula swing back and forth, and it has been suggested that the purpose of this organ is essentially to keep the throat moist and properly lubricated. This lubrication may help with the complex sounds of human speech.
Triggers Your Gag Reflex:
Yet another function of the uvula is that it helps you expel any object that is too large to swallow. If something touches your uvula, it triggers your gag reflex, which causes a contraction at the back of your throat that thrusts objects forward and helps in preventing choking. Uvula is one of only five body parts that is capable of triggering your gag reflex when touched. The other four parts are roof of your mouth, the back of your tongue, back of your throat, and the tonsils.
Uvula Prevents Food From Going Up Your Nose:
One more theory suggests that your uvula exists to block the path of food and liquid from going up the nose. It does this by sealing off the passageway between your throat and the nose or the Nasopharynx, keeping food and liquid in the right place. It is this seal that may also aid prevent an overly nasal-sounding voice, as it assists direct air and vocal vibrations out of the mouth instead of the nose.
It is also been suggested that the uvula may help to drain and direct the flow of mucus created from the nasal cavities, helping it to flow toward the base of the tongue and down the throat.
Immunological Importance of Uvula:
Research also found that the uvula may be a site for induction of mucosal tolerance to inhaled and ingested antigens. Mucosal tolerance occurs only on the mucosal surfaces and leads to the suppression of your immune responses to inhaled or ingested antigens. The purpose is to prevent the body from launching an unnecessary immunological attack against harmless substances such as pollen or foods.
Researchers noted an interesting thing that uvula contains a “Subepithelial barrier of macrophages and gammadelta T cells” that helps in the protection against potential microbial pathogens.
When is Uvula Removal Suggested?
Uvula removal may be through uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or UPPP, which is a surgery that is used to treat obstructive sleep apnea or severe snoring. The purpose here is to widen the airway, allowing air to move through more easily, and reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. Some individuals having this surgery may have unpleasant complications, like changes in speech, drainage of secretion into the nose and a nasal quality of their voice, etc.
Uvula removal may also be done to treat angioedema. Angioedema is a condition where there is a swelling of the face, periorbital area, lips, tongue and larynx, etc. This may occur in individuals with hereditary enzyme deficiency, or in people who develop allergies to certain foods or medications, making it difficult to breath properly, because there is an obstruction of the airway because of swelling of the intraoral tissues. So, uvula removal may be suggested to treat such a condition.
Side Effects Of Uvula Removal:
Many individuals live healthy lives even with uvula removal. However, there are some side effects associated with uvula removal. There are also some risks involved with the surgery of uvula removal. The related risks include bleeding and postoperative infections. Patients report some post operative pain, which requires to be controlled with simple analgesia. There may be some long term risks involved with the uvula removal surgery and they may include impaired gag reflex with attendant risk of aspiration and also some speech impairment, especially in the patients who speak languages with guttural phonetics of uvulary speech, like in Turkish language.
Below are some of the noted side effects of uvula removal explained in a precise manner.
Sore Throat And Pain:
The patient may develop a sore throat and pain in the throat after the uvula removal. This might persist for several days after the surgery.
Difficulty Breathing And Swallowing:
One of the significant side effects or complications of uvula removal surgery is swelling or edema of the throat, which can cause breathing difficulties, requiring tracheostomy insertion. Some patients may also find it difficult to swallow food, either solid or liquid foods, or both after the uvula removal surgery.
Fever may be one more side effect of uvula removal. Fever may however be mild, i.e. less than 101 F. but, you need to consult your ENT doctor, if you develop high fever, as you might have developed some infection of the operated area.
Other Side Effects:
Some other side effects of uvula removal include bad breath or halitosis, voice changes after the surgery, ears might ache after the uvula removal, you might notice blood in your saliva after two weeks of the surgery when the scab of the wound heals and falls off. Apart from this, there can also be a development of white patches on the operated site.
If you are someone suffering from severe snoring, sleep apnea, etc. It is essential for you to consult your ENT doctor to know if you have any problem with your uvula that needs to be sorted out via the surgery or any other treatment. It is also important for you to talk about all the possible side effects of the uvula removal and take the best step towards your treatment.
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