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What are the Causes of Pain When Swallowing?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pain when swallowing can be a distressing symptom for many people. There are several possible causes for this symptom, so it is a good idea to visit a doctor in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Some of the most common reasons for pain when swallowing include infection, inflammation, and ulcers in the mouth or esophagus. Medical issues affecting the esophagus may also be to blame.

Infection is one of the most common causes of pain when swallowing, and a prescription antibiotic is often needed to cure the infection. Several types of infections can cause this symptom, and a trip to the doctor or dentist may be necessary in order to determine the type of infection present. A tooth infection or abscess may cause this symptom, or a type of yeast infection may be the cause. A throat infection known as pharyngitis is another common infection. In some cases, a gum disease known as gingivitis or the herpes simplex virus can lead to pain when swallowing.

Inflammation can often cause pain when swallowing, especially inflammation of the esophagus. This can be caused by various factors, including infection or certain autoimmune disorders. A medical condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a common cause of inflammation. Over-the-counter or prescription medications are typically used to treat inflammation of the esophagus.

Ulcers found in the mouth or esophagus may lead to pain when swallowing. These ulcers are open sores that can develop inflammation or lead to an infection if left untreated. Topical medications may be used for mouth ulcers, and medications may be given by mouth or through the use of an injection to treat ulcers found in the esophagus. Hot or spicy foods may aggravate the ulcers and should be avoided until they heal.

Medical issues that affect the esophagus may sometimes cause pain when swallowing. In addition to GERD, some of these conditions may include esophageal spasms or achalasia. Esophageal spasms occur when the muscles of the esophagus contract abnormally. Prescription medications or surgical intervention may be used to treat this condition. Achalasia is a medical condition that prevents the esophagus from properly moving food into the stomach and is typically treated with prescription medications, although surgery to widen the esophagus or relieve pressure may become necessary in some cases.

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