ENT of Athens - Athens Georgia

Voice and Swallowing Problems

Have you ever opened your mouth to say something and nothing but a painful whisper rasped its way out? Talking and swallowing are two things everyone takes for granted—unless you suddenly sound like you’ve swallowed a bucket of gravel. Those symptoms are often followed by a sore throat and swallowing problems, which can make it hard to enjoy your pizza. If you feel any of these symptoms, don’t just suffer in hoarseness; call us at 706-510-0486.

Voice and Swallowing: Symptoms and Possible Causes

Voice and swallowing difficulties often stem from problems within the larynx or “voice box” in your throat. The larynx organ includes your vocal cords, which produce sounds as they vibrate when air passes over them. It also acts as a valve that prevents you from aspirating food (that goes down the esophagus). It’s also situated right under the thyroid gland. With so much going on every day in and around the larynx, stuff can happen.


Laryngitis is inflammation in your larynx; this can happen for any number of reasons. An inflamed larynx can, indeed, make you lose your voice, or at least give you a raspy and weak voice. The most common irritants that cause laryngitis’ pain and hoarseness include bacterial infections and viruses. While antibiotics can knock out bacterial infections, they are helpless against viruses. We can suggest ways to get through the virus and make it easier on your throat, however. Allergies, smoking, and exposure to noxious fumes can also cause laryngitis and the hoarseness associated with it. Beating laryngitis symptoms requires finding and treating the source of the problem.

Burning in the throat

Burning sensations in the throat are most commonly associated with Laryngo-Pharyngeal Reflux Disease (LPRD). In LPRD, acid reflux issues don’t stop in the esophagus (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease or GERD); the acid actually works its way up into your voice box and causes burning and inflammation. It can also feel like you have a lump or excess phlegm in your throat, neither of which are comfortable.

Voice fatigue

This condition is the bane of singers and people who speak a lot in their vocations such as teachers, actors and customer service representatives, restaurant workers, salespeople, etc. The vocal cords are actually quite sensitive and overuse and misuse can strain them to the point of injury, leading to hoarseness and a weak, raspy voice and pain when trying to talk or sing.

Lump in the throat

If you feel a persistent lump in your throat, there could be several causes, so it is important to have it checked by an ENT. Acid reflux can irritate the vocal cords, making them swell so that you feel a lump in your throat. If you have allergies or a cold that causes post nasal drip (where excess mucus from your sinuses and nasal passages goes down the back of your throat), this can also cause a lump-in-the-throat sensation. Persistent lumps or swelling can also be due to an enlarged thyroid or a tumor.

Food gets stuck in your throat

If food often gets stuck in your throat, it’s important to make sure to chew food thoroughly and swallow mindfully and drink plenty of liquids, otherwise you could get pneumonia. If it feels like food is stuck, but it isn’t actually food, this feeling is called “dysphagia.” The feeling is usually lower down, centered in your esophagus, where the food travels down to your stomach. If you have this feeling, it may also be accompanied by heartburn sensations, a feeling of pressure and pain in the center of your chest, as well as difficulty swallowing. Children and infants with cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy often have this symptom, while in adults this can point towards anything from GERD to a stroke or tumors (benign or otherwise). If you have this feeling, it’s important to see your ENT for an official diagnosis as soon as possible.

Coughing and throat clearing

These activities can also cause strain and damage to the voice box, but they are not always avoidable, particularly when chronic allergies, colds, bacterial infections and other irritations take them to reflex status.

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Treatments for Voice and Swallowing Problems

Because there are so many possible causes behind the voice and swallowing problems listed above, it is important to visit ENT of Athens for a proper diagnosis. While self-care can be helpful, just treating to alleviate the symptoms temporarily will not be able to resolve the underlying problem if there is a chronic or serious illness underway.

Generally speaking, if your symptoms of hoarseness, a lump in the throat, voice weakness, difficulty swallowing and a sore throat do not resolve within a week, call and schedule an appointment. We can diagnose and treat the underlying cause so you can sing, talk and eat happily again.

Talk to the Experts

Talk to the Experts

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