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Why does it hurt to swallow?

Jan 8, 2024Oral health

Why does it hurt to swallow?

There are several factors responsible for the pain during swallowing. Typically, it could be attributed to an infection or a pill that was ingested wrongly; however, there are also more severe underlying causes that contribute to the pain.

It is possible to experience discomfort in various areas of your oral cavity, throat or the passage leading to your stomach – known as esophagus. Some common reasons for this sensation exist; however, it is imperative that you consult with a medical professional to receive a proper diagnosis.


Common Causes of Pain When Swallowing

The act of swallowing requires the coordinated effort of various muscles and nerves located in our oral cavity, pharynx, and esophagus. Complications such as inflammation, infection, or blockages in these regions can lead to difficulties with swallowing and discomfort. Causes of painful swallowing include:

1. Throat Injury: The food we consume can be attributed to discomfort or pain when swallowing. Drinking extremely hot liquids can result in a scorching sensation within our oral cavity and throat, leading to painful swallowing. Additionally, it should be noted that the ingestion of food items possessing sharp edges may lead to throat abrasions. Consequently, the consumption of both hot and sharp foods can cause injury to the throat, resulting in pain while swallowing.

2. Tonsillitis: The tonsils, also referred to as the two lymph nodes located at the posterior area of the throat, are susceptible to inflammation caused by viruses or bacterial infections which are medically identified as tonsillitis. This contagious condition manifests symptoms such as:

  • Yellow or white patches on tonsils
  • Bad breath
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Tender neck or jaw
  • Fever

3. Strep Throat: Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria. It commonly causes discomforting swallowing and is regarded as the primary reason behind this condition. If you are experiencing pain during the ingestion of food due to strep throat, some common symptoms may appear as follows:

  • Swelling of either or both lymph nodes located at the back of your throat
  • Tonsils have white spots
  • Red marks have been observed on the soft palate or roof of the mouth
  • Fever
  • The roof of the mouth hurts

4. Oral Thrush: The manifestation of yeast infection is possible in the oral cavity, pharynx, or esophagus. Candida bacteria primarily trigger this ailment known as oral thrush. Difficulty in swallowing can be an indication of oral thrush, which in turn is characterized by a range of symptoms, such as:

  • Your tongue has white patches
  • The redness appears on the skin located at the corners of your lips
  • Dry or crack may occur in the corners of the lips
  • Loss of taste

5. Esophagitis: The movement of food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach is an essential function carried out by the esophagus, which plays a pivotal role in facilitating swallowing. Esophagitis is a condition that can occur due to several reasons such as acid reflux, allergic reactions, medications, or infection, leading to inflammation in the esophageal pipe. If you experience pain while swallowing as a result of this condition, you may also encounter additional symptoms:

  • Pain in the chest and stomach
  • Coughing
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Hoarse voice


Treatment for painful swallowing

Course of therapy for painful swallowing could differ, contingent on the root cause of the discomfort. Your healthcare professional might recommend administering antibiotics to alleviate any infections affecting your throat, tonsils, or esophagus. A mouthwash that can desensitize your throat during the consumption of oral antibiotics may also be provided to you by your doctor.

This pain-blocking agent aids in mitigating any discomfort that may arise during the act of swallowing the medication. In case of persistent or severe pain, a throat spray can be administered to alleviate the numbness. Anti-inflammatory drugs might also be prescribed by your physician for reducing inflammation in the esophagus, tonsils, and throat.

In cases where chronic tonsillitis is causing discomfort while swallowing or when medicines fail to provide relief, surgical removal of the tonsils may be advised by your medical practitioner.

The medical procedure referred to as tonsillectomy can be performed on an outpatient basis, allowing the patient to return home on the same day of the surgery. When considering if a tonsillectomy is suitable for your specific medical condition, it is recommended that you discuss potential risks with your physician prior to making a decision.

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