Eating has become a very unpleasant experience for you. Every time you swallow your food, you get a sharp pain in your chest. What is causing this pain, and is there any way to treat it?

What is esophagitis?

If you have pain in your chest whenever you swallow, you may have a condition called esophagitis. This is an inflammation of the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Esophagitis has a number of possible causes, including acid reflux, infections, allergies, and reactions to some medicines. Not only would you have swallowing pain, but you might also have difficulty swallowing, food might get stuck in your esophagus, or you might get heartburn. Infants with esophagitis might experience feeding difficulties, too.

If you experience symptoms for more than a few days and don’t get better with antacids, they make eating difficult, or you also have flu symptoms, a doctor’s visit is recommended.

However, if the pain lasts more than a few minutes, you think food is stuck, you have a history of heart disease, you have shortness of breath, or you experience severe vomiting, you need emergency care as they are signs of a more serious condition.

How is esophagitis treated?

Your doctor can recommend a number of treatments based on the exact cause of your esophagitis. If acid reflux is the cause, over-the-counter of prescription antacids could help. If an infection is the cause, medicine may help. If allergies are the cause, avoiding the allergen and taking medicine could help. If it’s caused by medication, an alternate drug might be available.

Esophageal cancer

More seriously, chest pain when swallowing might be a sign of esophageal cancer. If a tumor is large enough, it can restrict food passing by it. People with esophageal cancer may also feel like food is stuck in their throat, or they may even start choking on it.

ENT doctor Brett Heavner, MD

The most common symptom of esophageal cancer is difficulty swallowing. People with this cancer might start eating smaller portions of food or switch to an all-liquid diet because of swallowing problems. Other symptoms include weight loss, hoarseness, a chronic cough, vomiting, and esophageal bleeding.

However, these symptoms don’t automatically mean someone has cancer. It’s important to get a diagnosis from a doctor to determine what, if anything, you might have.

“Most factors causing difficulty swallowing are benign," CEENTA ENT doctor Brett Heavner, MD, said. “However, if it persists for more than 2-3 weeks or you get to the point of not being able to eat at all, it needs to be evaluated.”

Dr. Heavner practices in our Steele Creek office. To make an appointment with him or any of our ENT doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.

Do you know what might cause other swallowing difficulties? Learn more here.

Why is just one side of your throat sore? Learn more here.

How can your diet affect your vocal health? Learn more here.

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