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Painful swallowing

Definition

Swallowing pain 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. Swallowing pain may be a symptom of a serious disorder.

Alternative Names

Swallowing - pain or burning; Odynophagia; Burning feeling when swallowing

Considerations

Swallowing involves many nerves and muscles is in the mouth, throat area, and esophagus (the tube that moves food to the stomach). Part of swallowing is voluntary, which 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

To ease swallowing pain:

If someone is choking, immediately perform the Heimlich maneuver.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor or nurse if you have painful swallowing and:

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

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The doctor or nurse will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

The following tests may be done:

References

Falk GW, Katzka DA. Diseases of the esophagus. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 140.

Kahrilas PJ, Pandolfino JE. Esophageal neuromuscular function and motility disorders. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 42.


Review Date: 10/13/2013
Reviewed By: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein 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. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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