Sometimes we have a feeling as if something is stuck in our throat. This feeling is often experienced at the back of the throat, just posterior to the tongue. This feeling can occur on and off and can be severe or mild. You may also experience difficulty in swallowing, hoarseness, drooling, appetite loss or pressure and pain in the upper chest region. If these sensations happen sporadically, then it is usually nothing to worry about; but if the feeling of something stuck in the throat is prolonged or persistent then you may need to seek medical attention.
What Can Cause the Feeling of Something Stuck in Throat?
Patients who have had a stroke can often have this feeling of something stuck in the throat and can also be experienced by people who have nerve or muscle conditions. But the common cause for this feeling is a blockage in the throat and other different reasons such as given below:
- Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where the stomach acids travel back up into the esophagus causing formation of scars and ulcers. This leads to constriction of the esophagus.
- An object or food can be lodged in the throat. It can occur in children when eating or elderly individuals who wear dentures. The object needs to be flushed out or removed.
- Tonsillitis is a viral or bacterial infection of the tonsils which causes inflammation in the throat and swallowing difficulties. As the infection subsides, so does the feeling of something stuck in the throat.
- Esophagitis is a condition where there is inflammation in the esophagus, which can occur due to GERD, infection or something lodged in the esophagus. This causes difficulty in swallowing. There are some allergies which can also cause esophagitis and give rise to the feeling as if something is stuck in the throat.
- Esophageal webs is a condition where thin pieces of tissue develop in the esophagus and they protrude and form web-like blockages in the throat. Esophageal webs can be congenital or occur later in life. This condition also gives the sensation of something stuck in the throat.
- Diverticula is a condition where there is formation of small sacs in the throat or esophagus. This condition can be congenital or develop later on in life.
- Esophageal ring is a condition which occurs when due to the aging process a thin part of the esophagus becomes narrow resulting in difficulty in swallowing and a feeling of something present in the throat.
- Esophageal tumors, which can be benign or cancerous, within the esophagus also cause difficulty in swallowing and a feeling of something being stuck in the throat.
- Growths occurring externally to the esophagus such as tumors or lymph nodes can exert pressure on the esophagus resulting in a feeling of something being stuck in the throat.
This pressure can also be exerted by conditions, such as thyroid gland enlargement and bone spurs on the cervical vertebrae.
- Inflammatory conditions which involve the immune system, such as dermatomyositis or polymyositis can cause weakness, swelling and a feeling of something being stuck in the throat.
- Nervous system dysfunction decreases the function of the nerves and muscles which are required for swallowing. Dysfunction of the nervous system includes conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
- Experiencing trauma or injury to the brain or spinal cord, such as having a stroke also causes the feeling of something stuck in the throat.
- Weakening, narrowing or hardening of the esophageal tissues can cause regurgitation of the food and stomach acid to the throat causing a feeling of something stuck in the throat.
- Esophageal spasm, which can occur when there is contraction of the esophageal muscles, prevents the food from reaching the stomach and leads to a feeling of something stuck in the throat.
Treatment to Get Rid of the Feeling of Something Stuck in Throat
In most of the cases, this feeling of something stuck in the throat is not a cause for worry and does not need medical attention. However, if this feeling or sensation persists then it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention. Treatment depends on the diagnosis and cause of the condition and some of the treatment options include:
- Taking small bites and chewing the food slowly and thoroughly when eating helps prevent this feeling of something stuck in the throat. If neurological or other causes, are ruled out, then chewing the food slowly helps in cutting down on the risk of difficulty in swallowing.
- Medications are prescribed if the cause is infections, such as tonsillitis. Antibiotics are prescribed if the infection is bacterial. Medications, such as antacids, are prescribed for GERD. If the cause for having the sensation of something stuck in the throat is an allergic reaction, then avoiding the allergen or food banishes the feeling of something stuck in the throat.
- Foods which cause allergic reactions and those foods which increase the stomach acidity, such as sour foods, coffee, spicy foods and alcoholic drinks should be avoided.
- If the feeling of something stuck in the throat is due to food or any foreign objects in the throat, such as fish bones, then they should be immediately removed to provide relief.
- Medical procedures are needed if the cause is serious such as a tumor. Surgery may be needed if cancer is the cause of the sensation of something stuck in the throat along with other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.