Long Uvula Treatment

Your uvula is the smallish, red, round-shaped mass that hangs in the back of your throat. It plays an important part in your digestion and it’s thought by many doctors that your uvula is solely responsible for keeping food particles from travelling up your nasal cavity. The uvula directs the food into the stomach, and it is also thought to prevent bacteria from getting into your digestive system.

However, if your uvula is too long or is unusually large, you could suffer with obstructive sleep apnea or severe snoring. A too-long uvula could block your airways, leaving you unable to breathe properly during sleep, causing frequent arousals. Sometimes, a too-long uvula happens alongside having abnormally large tonsils and/or adenoids, and during treatment, the tonsils and adenoids may also be removed.

Treatments for a Long Uvula

Unfortunately, the only way to treat a too-long uvula is to have surgery. In most cases, however, your sleep apnea can be treated successfully with a CPAP or BiPAP machine, and it’s only if your tolerance to CPAP is very low that your doctor will refer you on to surgery. For some of the surgical options for treating a long uvula, take a look below.

UPPP

UPPP, or Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, is a surgical procedure which involves removing or shortening of the uvula, as well as the tonsils and adenoids if necessary. Surgery can also remove part of the soft palate, if needed. UPPP is a surgery requiring general anesthetic and post-operative pain is usually quite severe. It also takes a few months to get over completely and should only really be used as a last resort. There are also plenty of side effects associated with UPPP, including nasal regurgitation, dryness in the mouth, long-term voice changes and a persistent loss of taste. Success rates stand at around 40% for treating obstructive sleep apnea.

LAUP

LAUP, short for laser-assisted uvuloplatoplasty, is a modification of UPPP whereby lasers are used to remove the part of the uvula and soft palate. Although some early research indicates that LAUP could be more comfortable for the patient in that it can be performed under a local anesthetic, post-operative pain is still recorded as being severe. However, if the desired effect is not given after the first surgery, LAUP can be repeated up to four times. This is a mixed blessing; the patient can have a better quality of life, but they may have to deal with the post-operative pain up to four times, compared to UPPP patients who only have to deal with the pain once. Success rates stand at around 55% for treating obstructive sleep apnea.

One thing to think about before going for surgery is whether or not you think it will improve your quality of life. If you’ve tried CPAP and you can’t get on board with it, or you’ve tried other things to keep your airways open during sleep, such as a mandibular advancement device or snoring straps and pillows, surgery could be the answer.

However, if you’ve only been on CPAP for a short amount of time, don’t give up on it just yet. You could request a different machine or you could try a different mask. One of the more comfortable CPAP options is to get a machine that has variable pressure and a pressure ramp. That means the pressure adapts to the pressure you need, so you don’t feel uncomfortable. You could also try a cloth mask, as they tend to be more comfortable and less restrictive than a more traditional mask.

If you do decide that surgery is for you, make sure that you make it clear to the doctor that you only want 50% of the uvula to be removed. Some OSA patients have stated that after surgery that removed their entire uvula, their voice changed, eating and drinking was unpleasant and they had a constantly dry throat. Surgery that removes 50% of the uvula should help with your sleep apnea symptoms, but it means that you won’t suffer from as many side effects compared to if the surgeon took your entire uvula.