Painful swallowing

Definition

Painful swallowing is any pain or discomfort while swallowing. You may feel it high in the neck or lower down behind the breastbone. Most often, the pain feels like a strong sensation of squeezing or burning. Painful swallowing may be a symptom of a serious disorder.

Considerations

Swallowing involves many nerves and muscles in the mouth, throat area, and food pipe (esophagus). Part of swallowing is voluntary. This means you are aware of controlling the action. However, much of swallowing is involuntary.

Problems at any point in the swallowing process (including chewing, moving food to the back of the mouth, or moving it to the stomach) can result in painful swallowing.

Swallowing problems can cause symptoms such as:

Causes

Swallowing problems may be due to infections, such as:

Swallowing problems may be due to a problem with the esophagus, such as:

Other causes of swallowing problems include:

Home Care

Some tips that may help you to ease swallowing pain at home include:

If someone is choking, immediately perform the Heimlich maneuver.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have painful swallowing and:

Tell your provider about any other symptoms that occur with the painful swallowing, including:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will examine you and ask about your medical history and symptoms, including:

The following tests may be done:


Review Date: 7/11/2017
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.