There's a Weird Feeling in the Back of My Throat
What's in My Throat?
Have you ever felt like there was a lump in the back of your throat? You know that feeling when you're really nervous and you just can't seem to swallow? Some people experience this feeling on a more chronic basis and do not understand why. There is more than one cause for having a strange feeling in the back of your throat. Perhaps it doesn't feel like a lump—but it feels scratchy or tickly. Maybe your throat just feels stranger than it normally does.
Find out some potential causes, related symptoms, treatments, and self-help regimens to unravel the mystery of the "lump in the throat" phenomenon.
Basic Anatomy of the Throat
To understand the potential causes of a tickly, scratchy, or lump sensation in the back of your throat you'll have to first understand the anatomy of your throat. The throat is the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach via the esophagus or to your lungs via the trachea. The two essential parts are called the pharyx and larynx. The epiglottis is a flap that literally separates your trachea (windpipe) from your esophagus (foodpipe). All of these anatomical parts are in very close relation to one another in the throat, so you can imagine if one part is affected the others might very well be affected too.
In addition to the pharyngeal muscles, trachea, and esophagus, the throat is also highly vascularized (filled with many blood vessels).
So before you start imagining what casket your family is going to pick out for your funeral, let's look at some of the potential causes for a weird feeling in the throat that aren't cancerous.
You may be surprised to learn that the most common cause for a lump in the throat or a feeling like there's something stuck in your throat is acid reflux. The ENT doctor that I have seen said that the most common complaint of acid reflux is the feeling of having a "foreign body stuck in your throat." The stomach has a valve that is supposed to shut when you're done eating, but sometimes that valve will open and allow the acid from your stomach to back up into your esophagus (throat). The presence of the acid rising up into your throat will give you the illusion that something is stuck inside of your throat. Have you been feeling any heartburn or indigestion lately? This could very well be the cause for the strange feeling in your throat.
Bacterial or Viral Infection
Another common cause of strange feelings in the throat is the presence of some sort of bacterial or viral infection. Usually infections will present with a feeling of soreness, hoarseness, or a scratchy feeling in the throat, but sometimes it may feel like something is stuck in your throat (it all depends on how you are experiencing the infection). If it is a bacterial infection such as Strep Throat, simple antibiotics will clear it up in a week or less. If it is a viral infection, you will have to wait it out as there are no antibiotics for viral infections of the throat. You may have other symptoms along with infections such as these, including: fever, chills, and headache. If you've had any of these other symptoms along with the strange feeling in your throat, it is probably an infection.
This a somewhat new term to the medical community, though it is something that is actually quite common. It was once referred to as "globus hystericus" but has recently been updated with a more fitting name. This term applies to the feeling of a "lump in the throat" sensation that can be caused by a couple different things—GERD (as mentioned previously), cricopharyngeal spasm, and even anxiety.
Is It Cancer?
So now that you've read over some of the most common causes for weird feelings in the throat, do you still think you have cancer? It is most likely nothing life threatening; however, if you feel that you are having any difficulty swallowing or breathing you must get to a doctor or ER immediately. If you feel a sense of impending doom or are having any chest pain along with it, get to a doctor or emergency room right away. You don't want to wait on an issue that could be something worse than what it is.
If you're not having difficulty swallowing or breathing and you don't hear any high-pitched noises while breathing, then you're probably not in a life-threatening condition... so don't fear. Set up an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor to get it checked out.
Treatment and Self-Help Remedies
I had been having the lump in the throat sensation for a couple of weeks, and I decided to go to the ENT doctor to check it out. He stuck a scope down my nose into my throat (which was uncomfortable but not painful), and he was able to see that there was no tumors or closures within my throat. Just inflamed vocal chords caused by GERD.
If your lump in the throat feeling is caused by GERD, here are some ways you can relieve your discomfort:
- Take an acid reducer such as prilosec.
- Drink herbal teas used to reduce acid reflux (there is much information on the internet to be found).
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol and increase intake of water (caffeine and alcohol can cause acid reflux, not to mention will irritate an already-inflamed throat).
- Perform meditations and cleansing rituals to relax your mind and body and relieve anxiety (anxiety is many times an aggravating factor for the lump in the throat sensation).
© 2013 Nicole Canfield