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Swollen Throat and Difficulty in Swallowing

Written by Dr.Mary

The simple act of swallowing comprises several organs of the digestive system, and includes the mouth, throat, esophagus and pharynx.It starts during mastication or the chewing of food – part of the mechanical steps of digestion.

Saliva comprises enzymes that begins the breaking down or emulsifies food into a mass that is soft and this then travels down the esophagus. Swallowing is mostly voluntary, happening at your command and partly involuntary being controlled by nerves and muscles.

A problem during any part of this overall process causes swallowing difficulty or pain in the throat, neck or chest. So a swollen throat can stop or impair this process. You can feel the sensation of choking, or may feel heaviness or pressure. In some cases a swollen throat together with problems swallowing may result in vomiting or regurgitation.

Swollen throat Causes

There are a number of problems that can cause swelling in the throat. These can include:

  • Problems with the thyroid gland including cancer
  • Pharyngitis or tonsillitis infection – virus or bacteria
  • Swollen lymphatic glands
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Infection of the larynx

Thyroid gland

Problems with the thyroid gland are various with some that may cause the gland or the throat area to swell. These can include:


  • Cancer of the thyroid gland
  • Injury to thyroid gland
  • Graves’ disease which causes a goiter or enlarged thyroid gland

Pharyngitis or tonsillitis

This is normally caused by an infection to the tonsils caused by a virus or bacteria. This can cause the throat to be swollen and when the infection is gone, the throat usually returns to normal. Often in children tonsils are removed due to the fact that they become infected so often.

Lymphatic glands

There are lymph glands in the throat area that can often become swollen due to various infections – in some cases often in other areas of the body. Treating the underlying infection will take care of the swollen glands. There are cases where these glands have been swollen so often that scar tissue develops around them so that they feel permanently swollen. In these rare cases, your physician might want to do a lymph node excision so as to do a biopsy to make certain that there is no sign of cancer.


This is commonly known as the “voice box” and can become swollen for many reasons. Most of the time when the larynx is involved you will probably be referred to an ENT or Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. Cancer can develop in this organ and the larynx can become swollen if the voice is not used properly or the individual is in a job where they use their voice a lot.

The take away message from this article is that any swelling in the throat can often cause difficulty in swallowing.

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