ZocdocAnswersWhat should I do if I think I have a swollen epiglottis?

Question

What should I do if I think I have a swollen epiglottis?

I'm not a doctor but I think that I have a swollen epiglottis. I looked inside my throat and where I have some pain I could see what I think is my epiglottis. What should I do if it is swollen? Why would it be swollen?

Answer

It sounds like your sore throat must be very uncomfortable! However, in an adult visualizing the epiglottis nearly always requires a laryngoscope exam. What you are most likely seeing instead is the uvula, a small flap of tissue that hangs down in the back of the throat and is visible when you look yourself. In fact, the uvula can become enlarged at which point it starts to irritate the tonsils which can further exacerbate a sore throat. Many different things can cause a sore throat with an enlarged uvula, including both bacterial and viral infections. Right now, the best thing for you to do is see your primary care physician for a history and physical exam. Depending upon your other symptoms, your doctor might want to swab the back of your throat to test for infections such as strep throat. You most likely have a viral infection and supportive care to help with the sore throat and other symptoms will be sufficient. However, it is important to make sure that you don't have any other concerning symptoms that might need further attention or additional treatment such as antibiotic therapy. Finally, if you have or develop any difficulty breathing, you should go to the emergency room right away. An enlarged epiglottis is very, very unusual in an adult, but it could be a very serious cause of respiratory distress.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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