The feeling of something stuck in the throat occurs in the tonsils or just behind the tongue, at the back of the throat. This feeling may be mild or severe; some people may suffer from consistent and prolonged cases while others may experience sporadic episodes.
The feeling is often accompanied by other symptoms like pressure or pain in the chest, drooling, appetite loss, hoarseness, swallowing problems, and/or weight loss.
The feeling of something stuck in the throat is generally not serious if it occurs on and off, or uncommonly. However, persistent and long-term instances need to be check by a doctor for underlying conditions.
In most cases, people will feel as if something is stuck in the throat when there is actually some kind of blockage or in the throat. In rare cases, it may occur due to underlying conditions or as a symptom of nerve or muscle conditions or stroke, etc. Some of the common causes are listed below:
- GERD/gastro-esophageal reflux disease: It is a digestive system disorder marked by upward flow of stomach acids and other stomach content into the throat via the esophagus, there forming scars and ulcers that narrow the esophagus. This subsequently may feel like something is stuck in the throat.
- Blockage by foods or objects: It is possible for foods like fish bone, etc., or other objects to get stuck in the throat. Such things need to be flushed out or removed. Older people using dentures and children are more likely to suffer from such throat obstructions.
- Tonsillitis: It is a bacterial or viral infection of the tonsils marked by swallowing problems and throat inflammation and swelling. Treatment of the infection will subsequently result in disappearance of feelings of something stuck in the throat.
- Esophagitis:This condition is marked by inflammation and swelling of the esophagus. It is caused due to esophageal infections, GERD, or blockages in the esophagus. In addition to feelings of something stuck on the throat, patients may experience swallowing difficulties, discomfort, etc.
- Diverticula: It refers to tiny sacs or small pouches that form in the esophagus or the throat. It can be a congenital condition or develop later.
- Esophageal webs:It refers to thin strands of abnormal tissue that develop in the esophagus and project out to form web-like obstructions in the throat, thereby causing sensations of something stuck in the throat. It can be a congenital disorders or develop later.
- External growths near the esophagus: Lymph nodes, tumors, and other growths can exert pressure on the esophagus and cause throat problems. Such pressure may also be exerted by an enlarged thyroid gland or bone spurs present in the neck’s vertebrae.
- Esophageal ring: With an increased age, there may be constriction and narrowing of a small section of the esophagus. This can cause feelings of something stuck in the throat, swallowing problems, and other difficulties.
- Esophageal growths/tumors: The growth of malignant or benign tumors within the esophagus can also cause swallowing problems as well as sensations of something stuck in the throat.
In addition to the above discussed common causes, sensations of something stuck in the throat can also occur due to the below listed uncommon reasons:
- Presence of inflammatory disorders like dermatomyositis or polymyositis, etc. that adversely affect the immune system. Patients may experience weakness and swelling.
- Any kind of injury or trauma to the brain or the spinal cord. Stroke patients may also experience similar symptoms.
- Reduced functioning of the muscle and nerves that control activities like swallowing as well as nervous system dysfunction may also be characterized by feelings of something stuck in the throat. Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease are some illnesses that cause nervous system dysfunction.
- Weakening, constriction, and thickening or hardening of the esophageal tissue, as is the case with a disorder called scleroderma, can trigger the backward flow of stomach acids and food into the throat and mouth.
- Esophageal spams are marked by contraction of the esophageal muscles. This will not allow all the food to pass onto the stomach, thereby causing some food to get stuck in the throat.
- Rare conditions like Chagas disease, chordoma, Crohn’s disease, and Barrett’s esophagus may also be marked by feelings of something stuck in the throat.
Minor cases of sensations of something stuck in the throat do not need medical treatment as they resolve on their own. Severe and persistent cases may be treated in the following ways:
- Different causative illnesses are treated with medications. GERD is treated with antacids, tonsillitis infections can be cured with antibiotics, and allergic reactions may be alleviated with antihistamines and avoidance of certain foods, allergens, etc.
- Throat problems caused due to neurological causes cannot be eliminated completely. In such cases, patients may eat small meals and chew thoroughly and slowly to ease the passage of food down the throat and esophagus.
- Tumors need to be removed via surgery. If the tumors are malignant, then further treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc. may also be needed.