What is Odynophagia? “Odynophagia” is the medical term for painful swallowing. Pain can be felt in your mouth, throat, or esophagus.
You may experience painful swallowing when drinking or eating food. Sometimes swallowing difficulties, known as dysphagia, can accompany the pain, but odynophagia is often a condition of its own.
There’s no one single cause or treatment measure designated for odynophagia. That’s because painful swallowing is related to numerous underlying health conditions. Read on to learn some of the most common medical issues that cause painful swallowing and what to do about them.
Odynophagia may sometimes be related to a minor condition, such as the common cold. In such cases, painful swallowing will resolve on its own with time.
Chronic painful swallowing may be related to another underlying cause. There are several medical conditions that can cause odynophagia. Among the possibilities are:
- Cancer: Sometimes chronic painful swallowing is an early sign of esophageal cancer. This is caused by tumors that develop in your esophagus. Esophageal cancer may develop from long-term smoking, alcohol abuse, or persistent heartburn. It can also be hereditary.
- Candida infection: This is a type of fungal (yeast) infection that may occur in your mouth. It can spread and cause esophageal symptoms like painful swallowing.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): This develops from the lower sphincter in the esophagus not closing properly. As a result, stomach acid leaks back into the esophagus. You might have GERD if you experience painful swallowing along with other symptoms, such as heartburn or chest pain.
- HIV: Esophagus problems occur often in people with HIV. According to the AIDS Education and Treatment Center Program, Candida infection is the most common cause. Sometimes antiretroviral agents used to treat HIV result in acid reflux. This can then lead to other symptoms like odynophagia.
- Ulcers: These are sores that can occur in your mouth, throat, or esophagus, as well as your stomach. Ulcers may also be caused by untreated GERD. The long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), can increase your risk of ulcers.
Odynophagia can also be caused by medical treatments, such as radiation therapy for cancer. Some prescription medications may also lead to painful swallowing.