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What Causes Throat Tightness and How To Deal With It?

Topic Overview

A person can experience Throat Tightness for a variety of reasons. This sense of tightness may wax and wane and can range from moderate to severe in intensity.

Generally, Throat Tightness does not indicate something very serious going on but sometimes it does require emergent medical attention. This is especially if Throat Tightness is accompanied with other symptoms like problems with breathing. A person with Throat Tightness will have a feeling as if there is swelling around the throat. Some people also feel as if there is a lump in the throat. There is also a feeling of a tight band around the neck encompassing the throat.[1, 2, 3]

Throat Tightness may also occur at times with pain. Throat Tightness can also occur at times with dysphagia. This may be due to a variety of causes including but not limited to allergic reactions, neuromuscular issues, or a structural problem. Dysphagia occurring with Throat Tightness can also be a sign of something serious going on and needs to be checked out by a physician.[1, 2, 3] The article below highlights some of the potential causes of Throat Tightness and what can be done about it.

What Causes Throat Tightness?

What Causes Throat Tightness?

The Primary Causes Of Throat Tightness Include:

  1. Allergic Reaction: This occurs when the immune system of the body triggers a reaction to something that it considers as harmful for the body. These substances can be food or something that a person might have inhaled like smoke. The immune system releases chemical called histamine which causes a variety of symptoms including Throat Tightness.[3] An allergic reaction generally is mild and goes way when the allergen is removed from the body. However, sometimes if a person is exposed to excessive amount of allergen then an acute allergic reaction occurs. This is called as an anaphylactic reaction. It is potentially life threatening and requires immediate medical treatment. Anaphylactic reactions can occur as a result of consumption of certain foods, being bitten by an insect, or even certain medications to which a person might be allergic to [3] Anaphylactic reactions are quite common in the United States and studies estimate that 1 in every 50 people have an anaphylactic reaction and go to the emergency room. The primary symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction include Throat Tightness with severe bouts of coughing, problems with breathing, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, hypotension and tachycardia. [3]
  2. Anxiety: This is yet another cause of Throat Tightness. Sometimes, an anxiety attack causes physical symptoms such as Throat Tightness along with chest pain and difficulty breathing. This often leads the individual into panic attack. Other symptoms of a panic attack include dizziness, chills, headaches, feeling of losing control, tachycardia, sense of impending doom, shaking, and sweating. [3]
  3. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: This gastrointestinal condition at times also causes Throat Tightness. GERD occurs when the acid in the stomach regurgitates back up into the stomach. This causes a burning sensation in the chest. This is called as heartburn. A person complaining of heartburn more than two times every week is definitely suffering from GERD. It has been estimated that over 15 million people in the United States have heartburn on a daily basis. [3] If GERD is left untreated then it may cause permanent damage to the esophagus and increase the risk of the person developing esophageal cancer in the future. Along with Throat Tightness, other symptoms of GERD include foul odor from the mouth, coughing, frequent belching, problems with swallowing, sensation of a lump in the throat, hoarseness of voice, bitter taste in the mouth, and wheezing. [3]
  4. Goiter: An abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland is referred to as goiter and this is also one of the causes of Throat Tightness. The primary function of the thyroid gland is to influence the metabolic activity in the body by way of hormones. If excess hormones are produced then the person is said to have hyperthyroidism and if the levels of thyroid hormones are very low then it is termed as hypothyroidism. [3] Goiter can affect anyone irrespective of whether the thyroid gland is producing normal amount of hormones or very little or excessive of it. Along with Throat Tightness, a person with goiter will experience cough, problems with breathing, hoarseness of voice, and swelling in front of the throat. [3]
  5. Throat Infections: Certain infections of the throat can also at times cause Throat Tightness, especially those in which the tonsils get infected. A person with a throat infection will also experience fever, chills, problems with swallowing, pain in the ears, headaches, problems with voice. Infections like strep throat and viral tonsillitis can also cause Throat Tightness. [3]
  6. Other Causes: Other causes of Throat Tightness include vocal cord dysfunction, drainage due to a sinus infection, seasonal allergies, exposure to certain chemicals, and environmental pollution. [3]

How To Deal With Throat Tightness?

How To Deal With Throat Tightness?

The treatment for Throat Tightness depends on what is exactly causing it.

Dealing With Throat Tightness Caused Due to Allergic Reactions: Throat Tightness caused due to this may be best treated with an EpiPen. This is especially useful for people having an anaphylactic reaction. The EpiPen gives a shot of epinephrine which is the key for the treatment of anaphylaxis. If a person has a known diagnosis of allergies and is vulnerable to anaphylaxis should always carry an autoinjector like EpiPen which can be used in emergency situations. [3]

Immunotherapy is another treatment that has been quite beneficial for people with allergies. This treatment involves exposing people to specific allergens and desensitizing them. If a person shows good response to allergy shots then the physician may start injecting small doses of allergens over the course of some time. The process of desensitization is quite lengthy and once complete the immune system of the person will no longer be triggered on exposure to the allergen. [3]

Dealing With Throat Tightness Caused Due to Anxiety: Anxiety is best treated with psychotherapy. There are also anxiolytics which are also quite beneficial for anxiety. Additionally, relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, and eating healthy and exercising all play a major role in improving anxiety. [3]

Dealing With Throat Tightness Caused Due to GERD: The frontline treatment for GERD includes medications and dietary modifications. Some of the medications found to be beneficial for treating GERD include antacids like Tums. They are easily available in the pharmacies over the counter. H2 receptor blockers are also quite effective in treating GERD. These medications reduce production of acid in the stomach. The most preferred medication under this category is Pepcid and famotidine with the latter being the most effective in long lasting. These medications are available both with prescription as well as over the counter. [3]

Proton pump inhibitors are also very effective in treating GERD. They also work by reducing the production of acid in the stomach for prolonged periods of time when compared to H2 receptor blockers. Prevacid and Prilosec are the most common medications that come under this category. With regard to dietary modifications it is recommended to avoid hot and spicy food or foods rich in acidic content to deal with the symptoms of GERD. [3]

Dealing With Throat Tightness Caused Due to Goiter: People with goiter, especially if the thyroid becomes hyperactive, will need radioactive iodine therapy. At times, surgery may also be needed to treat goiter. Other than this, there are also medications that are effective in treating hypo and hyperthyroidism. [3]

Dealing With Throat Tightness Caused Due to Infections: Antibiotics are frontline treatment for people having throat tightness due to infections. For viral infections, they usually resolve on their own; however, sometimes antiviral medications will be needed. To prevent further infections, it is necessary for people to avoid any direct contact with people who have recently had viral infections or currently are having an infection, wash hands regularly with soap and water, and use sanitizer. [3]

Generally Throat Tightness is not a cause for concern and should resolve with treatment. However if it is accompanied by certain other symptoms like chest pains, fever, sore throat, and neck stiffness then it is better to consult with a physician to look for an underlying cause. In some cases, especially in people who are prone to allergies, Throat Tightness can be life threatening as it is a sign of anaphylaxis. In such cases, it is essential for the person to go to the nearest emergency room for treatment to prevent any unnecessary complications. [3]

In conclusion, Throat Tightness generally is caused due to conditions that are quite easily treatable like GERD, bacterial, or viral infections. At times, thyroid disorders like goiter can also cause Throat Tightness which can also be controlled with medications. [1, 2, 3]

However, Throat Tightness can also be caused by certain serious conditions like anaphylaxis. People who have a history of allergies are most vulnerable to this form of life threatening allergic reaction. Thus it is recommended for such people to always carry an autoinjector of epinephrine and avoid any direct with substances to which they are allergic to prevent anaphylactic reaction resulting in life threatening symptoms including Throat Tightness. [1, 2, 3]


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 1, 2022

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