What is Odynophagia?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2018
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Odynophagia is a condition in which an individual experiences pain each time he or she swallows. Unlike dysphagia, which is a condition where an individual finds it difficult to swallow, odynophagia does not necessarily involve any problems with the process of swallowing itself. For many people, the level of pain is similar when any swallowing activity is attempted, regardless of whether the attempt involves a cold beverage or hot food.

The causes of odynophagia usually have to do with some type of destruction of the mucosa or at least some type of irritation of the mucosa by the habitual consumption of extremely hot or cold food and beverages. Muscular disorders that negatively impact the function of the muscles in the throat can also be a contributing factor to the development of this condition. In some cases, odynophagia causes include the development of cancer in the esophagus, some types of immune disorders, or infections that develop in the upper respiratory tract.

For most people, the condition takes the form of an extremely uncomfortable burning sensation each time swallowing is attempted. Along with the burning feeling, many patients also report a sense of squeezing around the throat while attempting to swallow. This discomfort takes place when eating or drinking, but can also occur when simply swallowing as a means of clearing the throat.


The most effective treatment is usually a two-pronged approach, involving treatment of both the underlying cause and the symptoms manifested at the same time. For example, as medication is used to bring the respiratory infection under control, oral medication to help numb the throat and ease the pain during swallowing may be employed. As the infection weakens, the swallowing pain also begins to lessen.

In situations where acute odynophagia is caused by the presence of cancer, the process of treatment is likely to be extended. Depending on the location and severity of the cancer, radiation and chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor and prevent the spread of the cancer cells. If necessary, surgery may be required to remove the tumor. Once the cancer is brought under control, the patient is likely to find that swallowing becomes less painful over time.

Because there are so many reasons why this condition can develop, it is important to see a doctor as soon as the condition begins to take place. Early diagnosis of the underlying cause can expedite recovery, and possibly prevent other health complications if the underlying cause is particularly serious. Since many of the reasons for this condition can be treated with oral prescription medication, it is possible to get relief from odynophagia within as little as a week.


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Post 2

The most acute case of odynophagia I ever had was when I had chicken pox when I was six. The first couple of days were itchy, but bearable. Then, I got a huge pock right in the back of my throat, right behind my uvula. Once that thing appeared, swallowing was absolute agony, and it was all my mom could do to keep me from getting completely dehydrated. She would fire some Chloraseptic at it to numb it and then while it was numbed, I would eat soup or mashed potatoes and drink water and juice. As soon as the numbing wore off, I was in misery again.

I have nothing but the deepest sympathy for those who experience this condition on a long-term basis.

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