What is Painful swallowing (Odynophagia)?

What is Odynophagia?

What is Odynophagia?

Painful swallowing, also known as odynophagia, is a medical symptom characterized by discomfort or pain experienced when swallowing. 

This sensation can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and can occur anywhere along the pathway of the food or liquids as they travel from the mouth down the esophagus to the stomach.

A feeling of burning or squeezing pain while swallowing. This sensation may be felt high in the neck or lower down, behind the breastbone (sternum).

What is the signs and symptom of odynophagia? 

Swallowing is a complex act that involves the mouth, throat area, and esophagus (tube that transports food into the stomach).

Problems at any point, from the mouth to the esophagus, can result in burning or intense pain while swallowing.

Common causes :
  • Infection -  Throat infections, such as strep throat or tonsillitis, can cause pain while swallowing. Viral infections like herpes or cytomegalovirus can also lead to odynophagia.

  • Tooth infection or abscess -  especially if the infection has spread to the surrounding tissues.

  • Gum infection - often caused by bacteria that accumulate in the mouth due to poor oral hygiene or other factors. 

  • Pharyngitis - Pharyngitis is the medical term for inflammation of the pharynx, which is the back of the throat. It can be caused by viral or bacterial infections. 

  • Tonsilitis / Peritonsillar abscess - Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils, which are two masses of tissue located at the back of the throat. A peritonsillar abscess is a collection of pus that forms near the tonsils. 

  • Thrush (a fungal infection caused by candida) - Thrush, which is a fungal infection caused by the yeast Candida, can indeed lead to the symptom of odynophagia (painful swallowing). When Candida overgrowth occurs in the mouth and throat, it can cause irritation and inflammation of the mucous membranes, leading to discomfort and pain while swallowing. 

  • Herpes simplex, cytomegalovirus or Human immunodeficiency virus infection

  • Ulcers - Ulcers are open sores that can develop on the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or other parts of the gastrointestinal tract. 

  • Esophagitis (inflammation in the esophagus, often from gastro-esophageal reflux – bringing food back up).

  • Foreign body (such as fish or poultry bones) - When a foreign object becomes stuck in the throat or esophagus, it can cause irritation, inflammation, and pain during swallowing. 

  • Tumor

Infection in adults are commonly multifactorial, smoking and alcohol are predisposing factors leading recurrent infection or ulcers.

Most patient normally complain of general constitutional symptoms such as :
  • running nose, cough, fever.
  • Badbreath
  • Not being able to swallow all, drooling of saliva.
  • Difficulty in opening the mouth.
  • Pressure or pain in your chest.

Odynophagia is usually diagnosed with an endoscopy. This involves a small lighted camera called an endoscope. It’s placed in your throat so your doctor can get a better look at your esophagus. They’ll also have you try to swallow during the test.

Your doctor may order other tests related to any suspected underlying causes of painful swallowing.


Most of the complications are predisposing causes of painful swallowing / odynophagia :
  • Dental caries causing dental abscess.
  • Tonsillitis / Pharyngitis causing peritonsillar abscess, retropharyngeal abscess and parapharyngeal abscess.
  • Foreign body migration from esophagus into the chest penetrating vital structures.

Treatment (Treat the causes of odynophagia)

  • Tonsillitis / Pharyngitis – Bed rest, antibiotics, maintenance of fluid, analgesics (paracetamol) & mouth gurgle. Tonsillectomy (removal of tonsils) in cases of severe recurrent infection.
  • Peritonsillar abscess (collection of pus at tonsil bed) will require drainage of pus and tonsillectomy in recurrent cases.
  • Dental caries & gum infection require appropriate care with the dentist and oral hygiene.
  • Foreign body : removal of foreign body
  • Tumour : surgery, radiotheraphy or chemotheraphy


  • Reduce or abolish of irritating agents (such as smoking, alcohol and spicy food).
  • Good oral hygiene to avoid gum infection and dental caries, regular dental check up.
  • Eating slowly and chewing of food well to avoid foreign bodies getting stuck.

Sumber : Myhealth

Sii Nurul

Fulltime sabahan blogger since 2015 who love to write and sharing in her blog. Married with Mohamad Syafrie

Catat Ulasan

Terima kasih kerana singgah ke Blog Sii Nurul. Jika ada sebarang pertanyaan, komen, penambahbaikan, cadangan mahupun pandangan. Boleh tinggalkan jejak anda.

Terbaru Lebih lama