Painful swallowing is something that just about everyone has experienced at some point. During our childhood, our mothers often attributed it to something going down the “wrong pipe,” and we accepted that explanation. As adults, we seek a more precise understanding of why this occurs. Is it an ongoing issue or does it happen once and then recede? Let’s take a closer look at possible causes of painful swallowing and identify when it’s time to come in and see us for a consultation.
Causes of painful swallowing
Pain during swallowing can occur in various areas, that includes the mouth, throat, esophagus, or the center of your chest. This condition, known as “odynophagia”, is typically temporary, but can sometimes be a symptom of a number of other medical conditions.
Painful swallowing can be caused by these common causes.
Tonsillitis is the medical term for inflammation of the tonsils, two little masses of tissue located at the back of the throat. Tonsillitis produces symptoms such as a sore throat, swelling, and difficulty swallowing and is typically the result of a bacterial or viral infection.
Treatment typically consists of rest and hydration, and antibiotics may be suggested for bacterial infections. The tonsils might need to be removed with a surgery called a tonsillectomy if the condition is severe and persistent enough.
Group A streptococcus is a bacteria that is usually responsible for strep throat. It commonly shows up with symptoms like a sore and scratchy throat, difficulty swallowing, and inflamed lymph nodes. Strep throat is contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets, making close contact with an infected person a common mode of transmission.
Fast medical attention, usually with antibiotics, is crucial to effectively treat strep throat and prevent potential complications.
When the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach, called the esophagus, becomes swollen, it’s called esophagitis. This condition usually causes a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, and is a consequence of some medications or acid reflux.
Treatment for esophagitis involves dealing with the underlying cause. The exact course of treatment may include medication, lifestyle modifications, or in severe cases surgery.
Mononucleosis, or “mono,” is an infectious disease mainly brought about by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Prevalent symptoms include extreme fatigue, a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. The nickname “the kissing disease” stems from its typical transmission through the exchange of saliva.
While most cases of mono typically resolve with rest and supportive care, but potential for a serious complication is possible though, and when the virus is in its contagious period, people are encouraged to avoid situations where they might spread the disease.
There are many other causes of painful swallowing, so it’s significant to see a physician for a diagnosis.
When is it time to see an ENT for painful swallowing?
If you have pain when you swallow, along with any of the following symptoms, it’s time to schedule an appointment with us:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Noticing lumps in the neck
- Hoarse voice
- Symptoms persisting beyond one week
- Presence of blood in bowel movements or saliva
- Experiencing shortness of breath or lightheadedness
If you’re concerned about chronic throat pain, give us a call for a consultation.