When to Consult an ENT for Painful Swallowing

Woman in bed with sore throat.

Painful swallowing is something that practically everybody has experienced at some point. During our childhood, our mothers often attributed it to something going down the “wrong pipe,” and we were fine with that answer. Now that we’re all grown up, we have a tendency to want a more accurate explanation as to why this happens. Is it an ongoing problem or does it occur once and then go away? This exploration looks into the causes of painful swallowing and identifies when it’s valid to consult an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist.

Causes of painful swallowing

Various areas, like the mouth, throat, esophagus, or chest, can feel pain during swallowing. Odynophagia is the name of this condition, and while it typically has a temporary nature, it can manifest as a symptom of numerous medical conditions.

Painful swallowing can be the result of these common causes.


Tonsils are two little masses of tissue at the back of your throat and when they get ill it’s called tonsillitis. Tonsillitis causes symptoms like a sore throat, inflammation, and trouble swallowing and is usually the result of a bacterial or viral infection.

If the condition is the result of a bacterial infection, antibiotics will normally be prescribed and, of course, rest and hydration. In instances of persistent or severe occurrences, a tonsillectomy, surgical removal of the tonsils, may be planned.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection primarily caused by the Group A Streptococcus bacteria. Swollen lymph nodes, scratchy throat, and difficulty swallowing are all typical symptoms. Strep throat is transmitted from person-to-person through respiratory droplets and is fairly contagious.

Quick medical attention, usually with antibiotics, is essential to effectively treat strep throat and avoid potential complications.


Esophagitis is swelling in the esophagus, the muscular tube that links the throat to the stomach. This condition usually causes a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, and is a consequence of certain medications or acid reflux.

Dealing with the root cause is usually the course of treatment for this condition. The exact course of treatment might be comprised of medication, lifestyle changes, or in extreme cases surgery.


Mononucleosis, or “mono,” is an infectious disease primarily triggered by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Fever, inflamed lymph nodes, exhaustion, and sore throat are common symptoms of “mono”. The name “the kissing disease” comes from its common transmission through the exchange of saliva.

While most cases of mono typically resolve with rest and supportive care, but potential for a extreme complication is possible though, and individuals are warned to avoid activities that could propagate the virus during the contagious phase of the infection.

If you’re having pain when you swallow, whatever the cause, consult your doctor.

When is it time to see an ENT for painful swallowing?

Schedule an appointment with us as soon as you can if you have painful swallowing along with any of the following symptoms:

  • Presence of blood in bowel movements or saliva
  • Noticing lumps in the neck
  • Experiencing shortness of breath or lightheadedness
  • Symptoms persisting beyond one week
  • Hoarse voice
  • Unexplained weight loss

Call us today if you’re struggling with painful swallowing, we will often perform tests and also may look for tumors in the throat.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Questions? Talk To Us.