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Canker Sore on Your Uvula? Here’s How To Tell and Find a Fix

A person with their mouth open shows a canker sore on the uvula.

We don't normally pay too much attention to the punching-bag-shaped hanging thing at the back of our throat — our uvula.

Until it's painful, that is.

Though it's rare, people can sometimes develop a canker sore on their uvula.

If you're experiencing uvula pain, how do you know when it's a canker sore and not something else? And if it's a canker sore, how can you treat it?

Here we'll discuss how to identify a canker sore on your uvula and what you can do about it.

What Is the Uvula?

First, let's take a look at what exactly the uvula is, why it exists, and how it functions.

When you stand in front of the mirror and open your mouth wide, you'll see your uvula hanging down in the back of your throat. It connects to your soft palate and is primarily made up of glandular tissue, connective tissue, and muscle fibers.

Your uvula performs several functions. It produces saliva to keep your mouth and throat moist. It also moves backward with your soft palate when you swallow, preventing food from moving up your nose.

The uvula also contributes to sound formation in speech and plays a large role in the gag reflex.

Is It Definitely a Canker Sore on Your Uvula?

Because developing a canker sore on the uvula is uncommon, you'll want to confirm that it really is a canker sore before you start treating it.

Canker sores usually measure 1–4 mm in diameter and appear white, gray, or yellow in the middle, surrounded by a red or bright pink border. They usually form inside the lips and cheeks, but they can form in other places, such as on the tongue and in the throat.

Below are several other oral conditions that can sometimes be mistaken for a canker sore on the uvula.

Infographic: Canker Sore on Your Uvula? Here’s How To Tell and Find a Fix

Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia causes white spots and patches to form in the mouth. Most of the time, these patches develop on the tongue, underneath the tongue, or inside the cheeks. Leukoplakia is generally painless, unlike canker sores.

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush develops when the fungus Candida albicans accumulates on the mucous membranes of the mouth. Symptoms of oral thrush include:

  • A cottony feeling in the mouth.
  • Raised lesions in the mouth that resemble cottage cheese.
  • Creamy white lesions on the lining of the mouth.

Lesions from oral thrush can form on the uvula as well. However, thrush is more likely to appear throughout the mouth, whereas a canker sore usually appears in a distinct location.

Tonsillitis

The tonsils are the two balls of glandular tissue that sit on either side of the back of the throat. Tonsillitis occurs when a virus or bacteria takes up residence in the tonsils, causing them to swell and become painful.

The swelling from tonsillitis can sometimes extend to the uvula, causing it to swell, become painful, or appear more red than normal.

Uvulitis

Uvulitis simply means a swollen uvula. A number of conditions other than canker sores can cause uvulitis. These include:

  • Dehydration.
  • Smoking.
  • Acid reflux.
  • Snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Viral and bacterial infections such as the flu, mononucleosis, or a cold.
  • Sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea or syphilis.

Cold Sores

While cold sores usually form on or around the lips, the virus that causes them does occasionally produce cold sores inside the mouth and on other parts of the body. Herpes lesions can even form inside the esophagus.

If you've never had a cold sore before, however, it's unlikely your first outbreak would occur on your uvula.

What To Do for a Canker Sore on Your Uvula

While a canker sore on the uvula isn't unheard of, it's certainly an unfortunate placement that can make you particularly miserable. Swallowing and even talking can be painful.

If a canker sore on your uvula is particularly large or painful, or if it simply won't heal, be sure to contact your doctor to investigate further.

Otherwise, here are a few tips you can use to heal a canker sore on your uvula as quickly as possible.

Foods To Help Heal Your Canker Sore

In choosing foods to help heal a canker sore on your uvula, the main considerations are avoiding irritation, promoting healthy nutrients, and supporting your immune system.

First, it's important to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of nutrients because canker sores can stem from certain nutrient deficiencies.

Important nutrients to help canker sores heal include:

  • Lysine.
  • Vitamin B12.
  • Iron.
  • Zinc.

You should also focus on soft foods like soups, smoothies, and nut butters that won't irritate your canker sore. You can slightly overcook your food to make it softer and easier to swallow.

It's also important to stay hydrated with non-acidic drinks and cooling liquids to help your tissues heal.

Over-the-Counter Medications

There are many over-the-counter medications available to treat canker sores. Topical creams, liquids, ointments, canker sore patches, and even dental products abound, but not all of them will be appropriate for a canker sore on the uvula.

Due to the uvula's strong connection with the gag reflex, products such as canker sore patches could provoke vomiting, which besides being unpleasant, would irritate a canker sore even further.

Liquid or gel products typically use benzocaine, an anesthetic, to numb canker sore pain. Orajel 4X, for example, uses four different ingredients to numb, cool, fight bacteria, and tighten the injured oral tissues.

Curoxen Mouth Sore Treatment is a natural alternative with pain-relieving and healing properties.

The difficulty with these products is that they require direct contact with the canker sore to work. Products that allow you to "paint" the medication onto your canker sore with an applicator, like Kank-A Mouth Pain Liquid, have the greatest likelihood of working without triggering gagging.

Only you know how sensitive your gag reflex is and whether you can use one of these products on your uvula.

A better option might be a product like Hyland's Canker Sore Healing Dots. Instead of needing application directly to the canker sore on your uvula, the healing dots are designed to simply dissolve on your tongue. They're also a more natural option for those who prefer to avoid pharmaceuticals.

Red Light Therapy

Another non-pharmaceutical option that won't trigger a gag reflex is red light therapy. Clinical research has shown that red light therapy significantly reduces the pain and healing time of canker sores.

The Luminance RED Mouth Sore Treatment Device is an example of a light therapy product that harnesses medically optimized red light like that used in these studies. To use it, you simply hold the light near the canker sore on your uvula for 60 seconds, two to three times per day.

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