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What Causes the Feeling of Food Stuck in Your Throat

By Max. D Gray. Updated: July 3, 2017
What Causes the Feeling of Food Stuck in Your Throat

The condition of difficulty swallowing is medically known as Dysphagia. This bothering condition feels like you constantly have something stuck in your throat, making it difficult to breathe. This feeling usually occurs at the back of the throat, just behind the tongue. This pain can be mild but it can also be severe, causing more problems to the people suffering from it. Besides being very unpleasant, the feeling of food stuck in your throat or dysphagia can cause drooling, loss of appetite, pain and pressure in the upper chest.

If you often experience this problem and the feeling persists you might need to visit a doctor, as the condition could turn worse. In this oneHOWTO article we're going to explain what causes the feeling of food stuck in your throat.

You may also be interested in: Causes of Blocked Ears

What are the most common causes of feeling of food stuck in your throat?

If you have problems swallowing once or twice it might not be caused by any serious issue. However, if you often feel like there is something stuck in your throat, then the problem is more serious and might need treatment.

When you swallow, the muscles in your throat and esophagus squeeze and contract to move food from your mouth to your stomach. However, there are two main problems than can make these movements harder and therefore impede food from moving from your mouth down to your esophagus. This can happen either because the muscles and nerves on your mouth and esophagus are not working properly or because something is blocking your esophagus.

Causes of the muscles and nerves not working

The muscles and nerves that have to move food from your mouth to your stomach might not work properly because:

  • You have had a stroke or a brain spinal cord injury.
  • You have problems with your nervous system, such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or post-polio syndrome.
  • You have an immune system problem that causes swelling.
  • Esophageal spasm, which makes the muscles in the esophagus suddenly squeeze.
  • Sclerodema, a condition which causes the tissues of the esophagus to become hard and narrow.

Causes of something blocking your esophagus

If your esophagus is not working properly because something is blocking it, this may happen if:

  • You have Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This happens when the stomach acid backs up into your esophagus and causes ulcers which turn into scars. These scars can make your esophagus narrower.
  • You suffer from esophagitis, an inflammation of the esophagus. This inflammation can be caused by GERD, an infection or a pill stuck in the esophagus. It can also be caused by an allergic reaction.
  • You have diverticula, small sacs in the walls of the esophagus.
  • You have esophageal tumors, either cancerous or not.
  • You have lymph nodes or bone spurs that make pressure on your esophagus.
  • You suffer from tonsillitis, either caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
  • Sometimes, symptoms of hyperthyroidism may cause the sensation of something stuck in your throat, or the feeling of your Adam's Apple growing. You should check for other symptoms of hyperthyroidism and Goiter to make sure this is the underlying reason.

Also, other problems such as dry mouth can make dysphagia even worse, as without saliva it is more difficult to move food.

What Causes the Feeling of Food Stuck in Your Throat - What are the most common causes of feeling of food stuck in your throat?

Symptoms of dysphagia

There are two types of dysphagia, oropharyngeal dysphagia and esophageal dysphagia.

  • Oropharyngeal dysphagia: when you have problems moving food from your mouth to your upper esophagus.
  • Esophageal dysphagia: when you have problems moving food from your esophagus to your stomach. This is the most common type of dysphagia.

Each one of these two conditions has different symptoms. The most common for oropharyngeal dysphagia are:

  • Drooling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Choking
  • Regurgitating liquid through the nose
  • Breathing in foods while you're swallowing
  • Weight loss

The most common symptoms of esophageal dysphagia are:

  • Pressure in the chest
  • Sensation of food stuck in your throat
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Sore throat

When to visit a doctor

You should seek for medical treatment if you often experience this feeling. As previously said, if not treated correctly it can lead to more serious problems, therefore it is important to assess the issue if it happens constantly.

Before your appointment, make a list with all your symptoms, the medications you're taking and any other information that might be relevant. All this information will help your doctor have a better understanding of the problem you're having and therefore it will be easier for him/her to make a diagnose.

Your visit to the doctor might include a series of tests to check the importance of the problem as well as a physical examination. Some of the most common tests to determine the cause of your swallowing issue are:

  • X-ray with contrast material: to do this test you'll have to drink a barium solution that will cover your esophagus, which will make it easier to show up on X-rays. This will allow your doctor to see changes in your esophagus.
  • Dynamic swallowing study: for this test you'll swallow different foods covered in barium which will show how these foods move through your mouth and esophagus to the stomach.
  • Endoscopy: a thin cable is put in your mouth and passed through your throat so the doctor can see the esophagus.
  • Fiber-optic endoscopy: just like the previous one but in this case the thin cable has a camera in the end, which allows the doctor to see the your body better.
What Causes the Feeling of Food Stuck in Your Throat - When to visit a doctor

How to treat dysphagia

As previously said, if you currently experience the feeling of food stuck in your throat is better to visit a doctor as soon as possible. Also, the treatment will highly depend on your specific case, but some things can be useful for everyone.

It is important to learn how to drink and eat correctly. You should eat slowly, and even more if you suffer from this condition. You can also make some changes to your diet so that you drink more liquids as well as learning other chewing and swallowing techniques.

You can also use certain medicines and drugs that will alleviate the symptoms of this problem:

  • Medicines to relax the muscles in the esophagus.
  • Medicines to treat heartburn and GERD such as amoxicillin, though you can also try natural alternatives to supress the symptoms.
  • Drugs to treat anxiety.

If the problem is more serious, your doctor might suggest surgery. This could be an upper endoscopy, which would dilate the narrow area of your esophagus or a radiation, which will happen mostly when the problem is caused by a cancer.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to What Causes the Feeling of Food Stuck in Your Throat, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.

Tips
  • Children and older people are more at risk of suffering from dysphagia.
  • Anxiety and excessive stress may also cause the feeling of something stuck in your throat, or the feeling of being about to cry the whole time.

Write a comment about What Causes the Feeling of Food Stuck in Your Throat

What did you think of this article?
3 comments
Sara
Amoxicillin is an antibiotic, not an antacid (as in treatment for acid reflux/heartburn/GERD)
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Sara,

Amoxicillin is indeed an antibiotic, but it is also a known treatment for certain GERD ailments. Specifically, it is often used with clarithromycin to treat stomach ulcers. While not always the case, it is used to treat H. Pylori bacterial infections in the digestive system. Hope this clarifies the article for you!
Rating:
Leah
I have taken a look at the reasons of food stuck in the throat, tried to get rid of it with water and several other remedies and it doesn't go away, I am afraid that it is a more serious cause. I have been having symptoms for more than two days.
Please help thank you
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Leah,
As you can see there are many possible causes. If you can't pinpoint any of the other symptoms of the reasons mentioned in the article for the feeling of food stuck in your throat, we advise you to visit a doctor so he or she can take a closer look at you.

Hope this helps
Rating:
Liz
I think there is a typo in the first sentence. Should "swelling" be "swallowing?"
Matthew Nesbitt (oneHOWTO editor)
Hello Liz,

Thank you for pointing this out, you were right and we have corrected it!

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