The yellowish-greenish stuff that clogs up your throat regularly is mucus on throat. Mucus also referred to as phlegm is common when people have cold and upper respiratory infections. It can be incredibly frustrating and annoying to deal with mucus especially when it is stuck in throat. At times, you may experience mucus stuck in throat and no matter how you try to get rid of it, it always seems to come back. The nose and throat mucus is produced by cells that are lining the sinus passage.
The mucus has a function is plays— it traps tiny particles like dust and prevents them from reaching the bronchi and other parts of the respiratory system. Mucus also helps in sweeping and removing microorganisms that cause flu and cold. That’s why it is sticky and thick.
What causes mucus to be trapped in throat?
In understanding the cause of constant phlegm in throat, there is need to get an insight on the anatomy of the throat and the respiratory system. The midline external neck area that goes from the superior to inferior is made up of chin, laryngeal incisures, hyoid bone, cricoid cartilage, thyroid cartilage, wind pipes or rings of the trachea, and the sternum.
Just behind and attached to cricoid cartilage is the muscle known as cricopharyngeal muscle, which slings around esophagus— the swallowing tube extending from the mouth to the stomach. The cricopharyngeal muscle acts as a sphincter, and helps prevent food material from retreating back into mouth once you have swallowed it.
At times, when the sphincteric muscle is too tight, it can cause a lump sensation, which is also known as globus. The throat mucus sensation you encounter is always situated in this part, which is separated by cricopharyngeal muscle.
In majority of patients who have mucus struck in throat, it is mostly caused by laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). This is a disorder, which is caused by reflux— be it acidic or the non-acidic mucus reflux, which comes from the stomach. This mucus reflux travels up and tends to settle in that part of throat. The collection of the mucus can also be visible in a fiberoptic endoscopy.
However, many of the patients who have laryngopharyngeal reflux disorder never complain of symptoms associated with gastrointestinal reflux such as heartburn, indigestion, or nausea. While the cricopharyngeal muscle tries to tighten up in a bid to prevent the reflux mucus that comes from stomach from spreading and spilling up to other areas like the voicebox, in most of the times, this tightening only helps prevent mucus and saliva from moving down, something that results in mucus building up in the throat.
The mucus stuck in throat may also be caused by other conditions like postnasal drainage or drip. One thing about this is that, the patients feel the drip travelling from nose and moving down into throat. The drainage can even, at times be seen when one looks in back of throat.
Sometimes, though rare, food sensitivity or not food allergy can cause the mucus you have in throat. One of the common culprits of food sensitivity is dairy products, eggs, and wheat. Moreover, some rheumatological conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome could reduce the amount of saliva produced thus leading to thick spit that tends to hang in back of throat or mouth.
Mouth breathing or dehydration may also lead to such a scenario. At other times, esophageal pathology or cricopharyngeal muscle could also cause phlegmy sensation especially when the muscles develop scars, become chronically spastic, have hypertrophies, or a stricture, shelf, or ring develops on the lining of esophagus.
Symptoms of excess mucus stuck in throat
The symptoms experienced when one has excess mucus in throat are many and varied. At times, people who have bad breather never even realize they have this problematic mucus in throat. A person with excess mucus that is struck in throat will feel the urge to clear the throat regularly or chronic throat clearing. This is the commonest symptom.
When mucus drains from sinuses, it tends to collect at top of throat area. Another symptom experienced is constant swallowing or a feeling that there is something trapped at the back of throat. There is a feeling that you have a lump in throat, and this is constant phlegm in throat. Other symptoms are feeling of tickle in throat, globus or the lump sensation in throat, cough, and voice that sounds like wet now and then.
Treatment of mucus stuck in throat
When the cause of mucus stuck in throat is the laryngopharyngeal reflux, treatment is similar to that of GERD disorder although this time, it takes longer. It can at times go for more than 6 weeks up to 3 months. An individual may also want to change their lifestyle before they consider using medications.
Keeping the head elevated at 30 degrees may help. One should also avoid drinking or eating 3 hours before going to bed to reduce the chances of having a gastrointestinal reflux. Refrain from taking alcohol and caffeine and avoid spicy, tomato based, and fatty foods.
If the cause is from postnasal drip, different treatment options may be available. The cause of the postnasal drip will guide on the right treatment. A postnasal drip caused by sinusitis will require treatment using antibiotics. In case of food sensitivity, one needs to avoid the foods that cause that the problem.