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A throat spasm is a momentary physiological disruption in esophageal function. The seizing of esophageal muscles temporarily halts the throat's ability to usher food or fluids through the digestive system causing temporary discomfort and pain. Treatment for this episodic condition is generally centered on correcting the underlying cause and may include dietary changes as well as the administration of medication. Rarely does this condition necessitate surgery.
Individuals who experience a throat spasm may develop a variety of characteristic symptoms depending on the presentation of the spasm. In most cases, a throat spasm, also known as an esophageal spasm, occurs as an anginal pain that can mimic a heart attack in its presentation and intensity. Some people may also develop what is commonly described as a lump in their throat impairing their ability to swallow properly. Additional signs of a throat spasm may include heartburn and regurgitation.
There are several diagnostic tools that may be utilized to confirm a diagnosis of throat spasm. Following an initial examination and consultation with a physician, he or she may order a battery of imaging tests, including a computerized tomography (CT) scan and esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), to evaluate the condition and functionality of the esophagus and upper digestive tract. A barium swallow is also commonly performed to assess the efficiency of esophageal function. Imaging tests are especially valuable in confirming an esophageal spasm diagnosis since the spasmodic symptoms can sometimes be indicative of other conditions.
Though it is unknown what actually triggers the muscle contractions associated with a throat spasm, there are certain factors that may contribute to its development. Individuals with digestive disorders, such as chronic heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), may be at an increased risk for experiencing more frequent spasmodic episodes. It has also been suggested that exposing the throat to extreme temperatures, such as by consuming very hot or cold substances, may contribute to spasm onset.
Treatment for throat spasms generally involves the initial implementation of dietary changes. With time, individuals who routinely experience esophageal spasms learn their triggers and are usually instructed to make a conscious effort to avoid those triggers. Additionally, it may also be suggested that symptomatic individuals adjust their eating habits, such as when, how much, and how quickly they eat.
If the throat spasms are triggered by the presence of an existing condition, such as GERD, then treatment will usually be centered on that condition to alleviate spasmodic symptoms. Medications, such as calcium channel blockers and antidepressants, may be utilized to promote muscle relaxation and alleviate discomfort. For individuals whose condition does not respond favorably to traditional treatment approaches, surgery may be necessary to impair the esophageal muscles’ ability to contract.
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