Pain With Swallowing Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand pain with swallowing symptoms, including 10 causes & common questions.

  1. 10 Possible Pain With Swallowing Causes
  2. Real-Life Stories
  3. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  4. Statistics
  5. Related Articles

10 Possible Pain With Swallowing Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced pain with swallowing. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Viral throat infection

A viral throat infection is an infection of the throat, or pharynx, that is caused by viruses. Viruses are different from bacteria such as Streptococcus pyogenes (which causes "strep throat"). Viral infections are the most common cause of sore throats in children and adu...

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Acid reflux disease (gerd)

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) in infants refers to the passage of stomach contents into the throat causing troublesome symptoms, such as feeding intolerance, inadequate oral intake of calories and/or poor weight gain. Vomiting or visible regurgitation ...

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Acute bronchitis is an inflammatory reaction to an infection in the airways. Most cases of acute bronchitis are caused by a viral infection, although some cases may be due to a bacterial infection.

Symptoms include an acute-onset cough with or without sputum production, low-grade fever, shortness of breat...

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Canker sore in the throat

Canker sores are also called aphthous stomatitis, aphthous ulcers, or mouth ulcers. They are not the same as "cold sores."

The exact cause of canker sores is not known. Viruses, allergies, and auto-immune response may all play a role, as well as stress, smoking, and poor diet.

Symptoms include small, flat, painful gray or white sores on the inner lining of the cheeks and on the gums and roof of the mouth. They may also appear on the tonsils in the back of the throat. The sores usually last for three to four days.

Anyone with canker sores should see a medical provider. The sores often recur and can interfere with quality of life.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

There is no actual cure for canker sores, though the symptoms can be treated to ease the discomfort. Managing stress, stopping smoking, and improving diet can help to prevent a recurrence. The sores usually heal on their own within 10 to 14 days.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: sore throat, pain with swallowing, sore/ulcer in the throat, severe pain when swallowing

Symptoms that always occur with canker sore in the throat: sore throat, pain with swallowing

Symptoms that never occur with canker sore in the throat: fever, cough

Urgency: Self-treatment

Common cold

The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the nose, mouth, sinuses, throat, and larynx. There are over 200 viruses that can cause upper respiratory infections, and usually the exact virus behind a cold is never known.

The common cold is, of course, very common...

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Pain With Swallowing Symptom Checker

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Viral infection of the larynx (voice box)

Laryngitis an inflammation of the larynx, or voice box. This causes the vocal cords to swell and leads to a hoarse, raspy voice.

A viral infection, such as the common cold or influenza, is nearly always the cause of laryngitis. These infections are spread through casual contact, as when someone sneezes and the droplets are inhaled from the air.

Most at risk are people whose immune systems are already weakened by illness, medication, or chemotherapy.

Symptoms include hoarseness; sore, irritated throat; difficulty speaking; coughing; and sometimes fever.

Forcing speech during laryngitis can cause permanent damage to the vocal cords. Hoarseness that never really clears up should be seen by a medical provider, as it can be a symptom of a more serious condition.

Diagnosis is made through throat swab and sometimes blood tests.

Treatment involves rest and drinking plenty of fluids until the virus has run its course, and resting the voice so the swelling can subside on its own. Antibiotics are not effective against a viral illness.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: sore throat, runny nose, fever, dry cough, hoarse voice

Urgency: Self-treatment

Fungal esophageal infection (candida esophagitis)

Candida esophagitis (thrush) is a yeast infection of the mucus membrane lining the mouth and tongue. It can spread to the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. This can cause symptoms like pain when swallowing. Patients with a supressed immune system are more at risk.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: nausea or vomiting, pain below the ribs, deep chest pain, behind the breast bone, moderate fever, pain with swallowing

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Strep throat requiring throat swab

Strep throat, or "strep," is a sore throat specifically caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, also called group A streptococcus.

The illness spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and then someone else inhales the airborne bacteria, or touches a surface where it has landed and then touches their own face.

Children are most susceptible but anyone can be infected.

Symptoms include sudden throat pain, fever, headache, rash, body aches, and red, swollen tonsils. These symptoms can be caused by other illnesses, so a sample is taken by gently rubbing a sterile cotton-tipped swab over the back of the throat.

Testing will identify the organism responsible so that treatment with the appropriate antibiotic can begin. Be sure to finish all of the medication as directed, even after feeling better.

Untreated strep throat can lead to ear infections, kidney disease, scarlet fever, and rheumatic fever. These are serious illnesses. If strep throat is suspected, the person should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, nausea, sore throat, fever, rash

Symptoms that always occur with strep throat requiring throat swab: sore throat

Symptoms that never occur with strep throat requiring throat swab: general weakness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Acute viral sinusitis

Acute viral sinusitis, also called viral rhinosinusitis or "sinus infection," occurs when viruses take hold and multiply in the sinus cavities of the face.

It is most often caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold and spreads the same way, through an infected person's coughing or sneezing.

Because children have small, underdeveloped sinuses, this illness is far more common in adults.

Symptoms include clear nasal discharge (not greenish or yellowish,) fever, and pain if facial sinuses are pressed.

If there is rash, severe fatigue, or neurologic symptoms (seizures, loss of sensation, weakness, or partial paralysis,) see a medical provider to rule out more serious conditions.

Diagnosis can usually be made through history and examination alone.

Antibiotics only work against bacteria and cannot help against a viral illness. Therefore, treatment consists of rest, fluids, and fever/pain reducers such as ibuprofen. (Do not give aspirin to children.) Symptoms of viral sinusitis last for about seven to ten days. As with the common cold, the best prevention is frequent and thorough handwashing.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: headache, cough, sinusitis symptoms, sore throat, congestion

Symptoms that always occur with acute viral sinusitis: sinusitis symptoms

Symptoms that never occur with acute viral sinusitis: being severely ill

Urgency: Self-treatment

Strep throat needing antibiotics

Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection that can make your throat feel sore and scratchy. Only a small portion of sore throats are the result of strep throat.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fever, fatigue, nausea, sore throat, muscle aches

Symptoms that always occur with strep throat needing antibiotics: fever, pain with swallowing, sore throat

Symptoms that never occur with strep throat needing antibiotics: general weakness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Real-life Stories

Once your story is reviewed and approved by our editors, it will live on Buoy as a helpful resource for anyone who may be dealing with something similar. If you want to learn more, try Buoy Assistant.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Pain With Swallowing

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Do you have a cough?
  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Have there been changes in your voice?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Pain With Swallowing Symptom Checker

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Pain With Swallowing Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced pain with swallowing have also experienced:

  • 12% Sore Throat
  • 7% Trouble Swallowing
  • 3% Headache

People who have experienced pain with swallowing were most often matched with:

  • 60% Acid Reflux Disease (Gerd)
  • 20% Viral Throat Infection
  • 20% Bronchitis

People who have experienced pain with swallowing had symptoms persist for:

  • 54% Less than a week
  • 19% Less than a day
  • 11% One to two weeks

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Pain With Swallowing Symptom Checker

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