Doctors in Florida made an odd discovery in a 20-year-old patient: a bifurcated uvula, perhaps better known as that dangly thing in the back of your throat. The “weird” body part, as the patient himself described it, doesn’t seem to be causing its owner any trouble, but it’s still a very rare occurrence, made even more unusual for being discovered in adulthood.
The tale of this forked uvula, complete with a delightful photo of it, is detailed by doctors in the journal BMJ Case Reports. According to the report, the man had visited a local emergency room complaining of a sore throat and two days of general malaise. Upon closer examination, the strange dangler was found.
The uvula, along with the soft palate that it’s attached to, helps stop food and liquids from travelling up our nose. A uvula partially split in half could be a sign of other problems, since it’s sometimes accompanied by a submucosal cleft palate, a condition where the palate doesn’t fuse normally. This dysfunction can then make it difficult for someone to eat or speak normally. More rarely, a forked uvula has also been associated with Loeys-Dietz syndrome, a very serious genetic condition that weakens our connective tissue, including the arteries that pump blood to the heart.
In this case, though, the man’s unusual uvula appeared to be harmless, with no signs of a cleft palate or other serious related problems. At worst, it may have contributed to the slightly nasal voice the man had. After a test for a strep-related infection came back negative, he was sent home and asked to follow up with his primary care physician.
Bifurcated uvulas are typically congenital, meaning they show up at birth. And it’s already considered a rarity, with the authors citing evidence that it may appear in as little as 0.18% of people (in South and East Asian populations, though, it may be more common). However, it’s usually discovered by doctors early in infancy and quickly corrected through surgery. The man told the doctors that his parents were told about the uvula soon after birth, but for whatever reason, nothing was done about it, making this find even rarer.
In an accompanying patient perspective, the man summed up his unique uvula quite succinctly.
“Yeah, everyone always thinks it is so weird,” he wrote.