What’s up with my dangly bit Doc?

The arduous task of being a medical student often included examinations on a ‘pretend’ patient performed in front of an audience for maximum humiliation effect.  When performing such examinations, medical students must state out loud their findings, both positive and negative.  This formidable task often meant stating all the signs the patient did not have as well as the ones they did. During one of these performances, a friend of mine was inspecting a ‘pretend’ patient’s throat with the help of a tongue depressor and a torch.  With heavy concentration while looking deep into the patient’s mouth she remarks “and the vulva is not deviated.”

Now for anyone remotely familiar with anatomy, this would leave you in stitches.  For those who are unfamiliar, let me explain…

Have you ever wondered what that pink dangly thing in the back of your throat is? The thing that looks like half an earth worm hanging from the inside of your throat?  Some patients have told me that it is their tonsils or that they swallowed something sharp and injured their throat and now damaged flesh hangs from their soft palate.  It is neither; this seemingly useless piece of anatomy is called your uvula.

The uvula

You may be wondering why doctors need to look at your dangly bit.  We will look at your uvula when performing a cranial nerve exam.  If your uvula deviates to one side it could indicate a cranial nerve problem.  Its near anagram, the vulva, is a vastly different piece of anatomy.  The vulva is the name given to the external female genital organs, which I hope most readers would know, is clearly not located anywhere near your throat.

The vulva is all of the above, it is the external female genitalia
The vulva is all of the above, it is the external female genitalia

The uvula is dangly, the vulva is not (although there are always exceptions)

So now next time someone screams out ‘show us your uvula’ you know to keep your pants on and just open your mouth.

-The Doctor

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