The Sore Throat
The sore throat is a condition in which swallowing is painful. A patient may feel pain in the throat, mouth or esophagus when swallowing food, liquids or even saliva. In some cases, it can be resolved quickly, but it can also persist in the long term and may be an indication of a more serious health condition. Read on to know more about the causes of Odynophagia.
Difference Between Odynophagia and Dysphagia?
The dysphagia occurs when a person has difficulty swallowing, while the odynophagia occurs when simply swallowing causes pain. Dysphagia can occur along with odynophagia, but the two conditions can also appear separately.
Dysphagia is often more severe than odynophagia, as it can cause coughing or suffocation. In extreme cases, this can cause irritation or bacteria in the lungs, which can cause pneumonia.
Causes of odynophagia and dysphagia can be infections or inflammations. However, dysphagia can also be a symptom of anxiety and can be caused by psychological factors. Do not confuse with the fear of swallowing, a phobia known as phagophobia.
Common symptoms include: dull, burning or stabbing pain in the mouth, throat or esophagus when swallowing; pain that worsens when swallowing dry food, although in some cases liquids and solids cause the same amount of pain; weight loss due to reduced food intake; dehydration due to reduced fluid intake.
Causes of Odynophagia
A wide range of factors can cause pain when swallowing, including:
- Infections, such as the common cold, the flu and strep throat.
- Inflammation of the mouth, throat or esophagus caused by tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis or esophagitis.
- Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where stomach acid enters the esophagus and sometimes the throat, causing pain and inflammation. Long-term heartburn can cause ulcers and dysphagia.
- weakened immune system. People with HIV or AIDS or those undergoing radiotherapy or other cancer treatments tend to develop odynophagia more often than other people.
- Infections in the mouth, throat and esophagus. These fungal infections are more common in people with weakened immune systems.
- Esophageal cancer is associated with persistent dysphagia, odynophagia and involuntary weight loss. A person suffering from esophageal cancer may feel chest or back pain when swallowing.
- Injuries or ulcers in the mouth, throat or esophagus. These can be caused by physical trauma, surgery or eating foods with sharp edges.
- Tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs can irritate the mouth, throat and esophagus, making it painful to swallow.
- Drinking very hot or cold drinks for a prolonged period may affect the mucous lining of the esophagus.
Treatments for painful swallowing include:
- Treating underlying causes, such as taking antibiotics for infections or antacids for acid reflux
- Anti-inflammatories to relieve the pain of inflammations, such as tonsillitis and laryngitis
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco, as these substances can irritate the throat and esophagus.
- Eat soft foods and chew for a longer time so that swallowing is less painful
- Use sprays to numb the throat and relieve pain in the short term
In severe cases where it is impossible to swallow due to pain, a feeding tube may be recommended to prevent weight loss. When cancer is one of the causes of odynophagia, surgery is also an option.
When to See a Doctor
In many cases, odynophagia resolves without treatment. Painful swallowing due to a common cold or flu should go away within a week. It is recommended to visit the doctor if the odynophagia persists for several weeks, is accompanied by weight loss or dehydration, or if a new lump appears in the throat.