Sharp pain in chest while swallowing is quiet frightening experience. Many of us may have experienced this type of pain sometime in life for a momentary period. In most cases it subsides on its own without any specific medical treatment. But if the symptom persists every time you eat or drink, then there is something more than meets the eyes. You have to consult your primary health care practitioner for further evaluation as there are many causes that can cause pain in chest during and after eating. Most of the temporary causes can be managed by altering lifestyle and with medications.But if it is a chronic concern, a detailed evaluation and differentiation of serious medical conditions is needed.
Causes of chest pain while swallowing:
Several causes have been known to cause pain in chest while swallowing solid or liquid. It mainly deals with the disorders of esophagus. In medical terminology this symptom is also referred as esophageal dysphagia. Esophagus is a muscular tube through which food and liquid that you swallow passes into the stomach. An inflammation or obstruction or an injury in the esophagus can produce pain and irritation in the esophagus which a person experiences in the form of pain in chest while swallowing.Here are some of the important causes:
- One of the physiological and benign causes is swallowing a large bolus of food or when you drink something very hot or cold.
- Overeating is another common cause for feeling fullness and chest pain.
- Acid reflux disease or GERD can cause pain in chest after eating and swallowing. This condition results when the gastric content reverses from the stomach into the lower end of esophagus because of weak esophageal sphincter. The acid from stomach harms the esophageal lining and produces inflammatory changes. This will cause pain and heartburn while swallowing.
- Achalasia cardia: Although a rare medical condition, it can cause pain in chest and difficulty in swallowing food and liquid. In this condition, the nerves that innervate esophagus are damaged. This makes the esophageal muscles loose and narrow. As a result food does not pass easily into the stomach. It causes mild to moderate pain in chest when you forcefully attempt to swallow. In severe cases the food or liquid is immediately vomited.
- Esophagitis due to viral or fungal infection. Herpetic esophagitis and fungal infection in the lower end of esophagus can cause pain in chest when you try to swallow.
- An obstruction caused due to cancer of esophagus can cause difficulty and pain in chest while swallowing.
- Obstruction or an injury from impacted foreign body inside the food pipe can produce sharp pain continuously, especially when you eat or drink.
- Hiatus hernia: The diaphragm separates chest and abdominal cavity. There is a small hole between the two diaphragm through which esophagus passes to reach stomach. Hiatus hernia occurs when the upper part of stomach enters into the chest cavity through the hole between two diaphragms. This can give rise to pain especially after swallowing food.
How to relieve pain:
Sharp pain in chest while swallowing mainly occurs when something is wrong with the esophagus or the food pipe. The good news is that most of the esophageal disorders can be managed medically before it causes long term damage. However, it is necessary to get the condition diagnosed early and treated. Treatment is mainly focused on addressing the underlying cause. In some cases conventional medicines may be useful while lifestyle factors and home remedies also play equal role in the treatment.
- Avoid eating excessive spicy and acidic food.
- Avoid overeating
- Mix one teaspoon of honey in a glass of milk. Drink this mixture once in a day to soothe the lining of esophagus if you are regularly suffering from pain in chest while swallowing.
- Avoid taking anti inflammatory and other medicines on empty stomach unless it is suggested by the doctor.
- Lubricate dry food items with sauce
- Make liquid thicker to swallow them easily.
- Avoid eating when you are stressed and tired.
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol.
- Reduce your weight if you are obese.
- In case of GERD, over the counter antacids, proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers are beneficial.
- Achlasia cardia patients may need endoscopic intervention or surgery.
- Any foreign body obstruction has to be removed surgically or with an endoscope.