A tight feeling in your throat can be very uncomfortable. This can also be an alarming sensation if you are unsure what is causing it. Different causes can cause a tight feeling in the throat to appear intermittently or constantly. You might be able to diagnose the root cause of a tight throat on your own, but it might still be best to speak to your doctor so you can rule out more serious causes.
Causes of Tight Feeling in Throat
Anxiety can cause your throat to feel tight. Unfortunately, worrying about this can cause your symptoms to become worse, leading to tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat or sweating. Tension from anxiety can also cause you to clench your jaw which could lead to a tight feeling in the throat.
Treatment: There are no specific treatments that you can use to address anxiety symptoms because these symptoms do not have a physical medical cause. However, there are some tips that can help to reduce anxiety to minimize these effects.
- Drink Water.Drinking water reduces a tight feeling in the throat by providing you with a sensation of something moving down your throat, helping to ensure that your throat is not closed off. Hydration is also known to help reduce the feeling of a lump in the throat.
- Jogging. Jogging during a panic attack may seem like a bad idea if you are having trouble breathing, but this is a good way to help your body release stress. Jogging helps to reduce chemicals in the body that relax the muscles, including those in the throat, to help stave off these symptoms.
- Herbal Solutions. Kava, passionflower or valerian herbs can help to reduce anxiety or stress. Perform your own research on these herbs to see if you believe they could be helpful.
2. Thyroid Disorders
The butterfly shaped thyroid gland sits on the neck. A thyroid disorder can make it feel as though your throat is tight or you have a lump in this area. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is underperforming, producing too little of the necessary thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, insomnia, cold intolerance or depression. This can be diagnosed with a blood test and treated with medication to help reduce symptoms. Nodules on the thyroid can also cause tightness difficulty swallowing. If necessary they can be surgically removed.
More information on these conditions can be found here:
3. Acid Reflux
Acid reflux, known as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux can cause a sensation similar to something being stuck in the throat. This is actually caused by stomach acid splashing up into your esophagus and damaging the tissue. You can manage this condition with over the counter medications, avoiding spicy food, consuming smaller quantities in one sitting or raising the head of your mattress 6-8 inches.
Treatment: Altering your medications, lifestyle or diet can help to address the symptoms of acid reflux. Avoid eating foods that cause your throat to feel tight or trigger acid reflux episodes. These foods might include those that are quite acidic including garlic, onions, tomatoes, citrus fruits or spicy foods. Avoid consuming caffeine, carbonated beverages, alcohol or smoking. Sitting so your stomach is below your throat may also be helpful. Some find that eating earlier in the evening so you do not sleep on a full stomach is also helpful. You can use over the counter medications to reduce symptoms once they begin. If you cannot get your acid reflux under control a doctor can prescribe you stronger medication.
4. Food Allergy
Food allergies will commonly cause tightness in the throat that makes it feel like your airway is constricted. This can lead to difficulty breathing, which can be very serious. Eggs, shellfish, sulfites, dairy, soy or corn may cause this reaction.
Treatment: Over the counter antihistamines such as Benadryl can help to reduce allergy symptoms. Your doctor may provide those with severe allergies with a kit that will allow you to provide yourself with an epinephrine injection if your symptoms become life threatening.
5. Other Health Conditions
Additional causes may lead to a tight feeling in the throat. Some conditions such as strep throat or a cold are quite common while other potential causes like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more rare.
The common cold is caused by a vital infection in the upper respiratory tract. This can lead to a tight throat, coughing, runny nose, sneezing or fever. These symptoms should dissipate in 7-10 days, but some may last as long as three weeks.
Strep throat is a pharyngitis infection causes by streptococcal bacteria invading the pharynx and occasionally the larynx and tonsils. Symptoms of strep throat include swollen lymph nodes, sore throat and fever. Around 37 percent of sore throats in children and 5 to 15 percent of adult sore throats are caused by this type of infection.
Hay fever symptoms begin after being exposed to a substance that causes an allergic reaction. Symptoms include runny nose, itchy nose, nasal congestion, itchy throat or roof of the mouth and cough.
6. Other Causes
Exposure to chemicals, pollution an infection, alterations in mucus volume, consistency or pH can cause inflammation in the throat. This may lead to swelling or a feeling of tightness. You may also need to swallow more frequently, which can exasperate this feeling.
When to See a Doctor
Tightness in the throat could be life threatening. If you know you are allergic to a substance such as insect venom, food or medications and you come into contact with these items prior to feeling tightness in the throat it could lead to cardiac problems or shortness of breath. If you believe you are having an allergic reaction you should not wait to get help.
In most cases tightness of the throat is not life threatening, but it can make you feel uncomfortable or nervous. If you have tried treatments at home and the feeling lasts more than a few days or causes difficulty breathing you should seek out medical assistance.