Odynophagia is not a serious disorder or rare medical condition as you imagine, but it is the term used for describing the condition of pain that occurs during swallowing. Pain can occur in any part of the mouth, throat or in the tube that connects the oral cavity and the stomach. Pain during swallowing can be caused due to many conditions like infection in the throat or mouth or due to presence of any small objects in the throat or due to painful sores or ulcers in the throat. It can be treated with suitable medications after diagnosing the cause of the problem.
Odynophagia Symptoms :
The symptoms of odynophagia differ according to the cause of the problem. Presence of painful ulcers or sores in the throat or mouth can cause pain while swallowing. If the underlying cause is related with the lungs it can cause dyspnea (difficulty in breathing) with painful swallowing. Pain during swallowing can also be caused by acid reflex disease which is accompanied by signs like chest burn, frequent burping, and chest pain. It may also cause symptoms like coughing and wheezing while eating anything.
For some people symptoms of odynophagia gets worse during morning and get better during the course of the day. Severe throat problems like ulcer or tumor can cause change in voice also. The person would like feel like squeezing pain in the throat while eating or drinking anything if tumors are present in the throat. Same condition can also be caused due to severe infections.
Causes of Odynophagia :
Painful swallowing or odynophagia can be caused due to many factors. Any infection on the mouth or throat or esophagus can cause difficulty in swallowing. Bacterial infection, fungal infection or viral infection like Candidiasis can cause painful swallowing. The person can feel pain while eating anything after throat surgery like tonsillitis.
It can cause great discomfort to swallow saliva also during that period. But this is only temporary and gradually improves with medication. Accidental ingestion of any toxic substances or acids etc can cause great pain in the throat and esophageal region. Presence of tumors or ulcerous growth on throat can cause odynophagia. Since the mucosa (tissue lining) of the throat is very soft it can get easily irritated by drinking/eating cold/hot foods or beverages.
Your physician would collect complete medical history and examine the throat using special lighted instrument. Based on your symptoms and intense of difficulty in swallowing your physician may order for certain tests. Endoscopy is the basic test for identifying any problems in throat and esophagus region. He may request for biopsy (removing small tissue sample) from the throat if he suspects tumor or cancer inside. He may also refer your case to ENT specialist if necessary.
Treatment for odynophagia is based on its cause. For painful swallowing due to infection suitable antibiotics are prescribed. The patient should follow and complete the course of medication in case of infection failing which the infection can recur. Nasal decongestants are recommended for problems like shortness of breath and difficulty in swallowing.
For ulcers your doctor would prescribe pain-killers and suitable analgesics to manage the symptoms and facilitate healing. In case of tumor or cancerous growth chemotherapy or radiation treatment is started. For tumor or large size surgery is done to remove it along with lymph nodes. People with gastro esophageal reflux disorder should take suitable antacids to prevent chest burn and restrict intake of acidic foods and caffeinated drinks.