Anyone who has experienced throat tightness knows the feeling. Your throat feels as though it is closing and you cannot swallow. You may even feel that you cannot breathe. These feelings may begin to make you feel uneasy and may even escalate into full-blown anxiety and physical symptoms. But, do you know what causes and how to relieve this feeling in your throat? Here comes the answer.
Causes and Treatments for Throat Tightness
One of the most common causes and symptoms of throat tightness is anxiety. Sometimes the anxiety causes the tightness in your throat, but as you worry about the throat tightness, the anxiety can increase. You may find that you are short of breath with sweating and a feeling that your heart is beating out of your chest. You may be clenching your fists and your jaws.
Treatment for anxiety begins with recognition of the problem causing the anxiety. Work on the tension in your body by exercising, avoiding drugs, caffeine and alcohol, and getting enough sleep at night. Relaxation techniques such as yoga and diverting your attention may help relieve anxiety. If your anxiety and throat tightness lasts for an extended period, seek professional help.
2. Thyroid Problems
The thyroid gland is in your neck and a problem with this gland may make your throat feel tight. If there are nodules on your thyroid gland, your esophagus may be slightly constricted and swallowing may be difficult. Occasionally, hypothyroidism may cause your throat to feel tight.
Treatments for thyroid problems are usually medical. Although hypothyroidism does not typically cause throat tightness, your doctor may prescribe a synthetic thyroid hormone to increase the hormone levels. If your healthcare provider finds nodules on your thyroid, treatment will depend on the size of the nodules and the effect they are having on your health. If a nodule is not cancer, your doctor may watch for changes and perhaps treat with a synthetic thyroid replacement. If a nodule is cancerous, your doctor may do surgery to remove the growth.
3. Acid Reflux
Acid reflux occurs when acid from your stomach comes back up into your esophagus and throat. When this happens, you may feel a burning in your throat or a feeling that your throat is tight or obstructed. In more severe cases, you may also notice that the acid moves far enough up into your throat and mouth that you can actually taste the hot acid.
Treatment for acid reflux may include diet and lifestyle changes and medications. Avoid eating foods that cause the reflux and throat tightness. Some foods include citrus fruits, acidic vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, spicy foods and garlic. Stop smoking and consuming caffeine, alcohol and carbonated beverages. Raise the head on your bed so your stomach is lower than your throat. Eat earlier in the evening so you do not go to bed with a full stomach. Over-the-counter antacids may help occasional acid reflux. If the problem persists, your healthcare provider may prescribe other medications.
4. Food Allergy
Food allergies can be caused by almost any food. Some of the most common food allergies are caused by dairy products, eggs, wheat, nuts, and seafood. After eating one of these foods, you may begin to feel itching or swelling of the lips and tightness of the throat. You may notice a rash on your skin and the back of your throat. In more severe reactions, the tightness in your throat may actually lead to severe shortness of breath, wheezing or a total constriction of your throat.
Treatments for a food allergy involves prevention first — avoid the particular food to which you are allergic. Read all labels for any processed food to ensure that the food does not contain your allergen. Benadryl or another over-the-counter antihistamine may help the symptoms and prevent throat tightness. Your healthcare provider may prescribe an allergy kit if you have severe food allergies. This device will allow you to give yourself an injection of epinephrine in the event of a life-threatening event.
5. Medication Allergy
Symptoms of a medication allergy may include a rash on your body and throat, swelling of lips, mouth, and throat, and tightness of the throat that may result in shortness of breath and wheezing. As your throat tightness increases, you may notice that you become anxious, your heart rate increases, and you may become confused and dizzy. In a medication allergy, throat tightness may indicate a true medical emergency.
Treatment for a medication allergy first involves avoiding the medication. Be sure your healthcare provider knows the drugs you cannot take. Wear a Medic Alert bracelet or necklace to alert medical personnel in case you cannot tell them. If you do experience throat tightness after taking a medication, try taking an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl. Your healthcare provider may prescribe an EpiPen for severe reactions. If you develop severe throat tightness or shortness of breath, call for medical assistance.
6. Insect Venom Allergy
Most people do not react to an insect bite or sting; however, some people have a true allergy to the venom injected when an insect bites or stings. Throat tightness after an insect sting is a true medical emergency. You may notice swelling or itching in your throat followed by shortness of breath, anxiety and confusion.
Treatment for insect venom allergy includes avoiding the insects. If you are stung, remove the stinger. Keep the area of the sting below the level of your heart if possible. If swelling begins, elevate the area. Apply ice to the area of the sting for about 20 minutes. An antihistamine such as Benadryl may help relieve swelling and itching. Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone may help the itching. If your healthcare provider determines that you have a true allergy to insect stings, she may prescribe an EpiPen. This device will allow you to give yourself an injection of epinephrine in the event of a life-threatening event.
When to See a Doctor
Throat tightness may or may not be life threatening. When you know you are allergic to a food, medication, or insect venom, contact with any of these sources may cause throat tightness that leads to shortness of breath and resulting cardiac problems. Do not wait to get help if you have an allergic reaction.
Most throat tightness is not life threatening but the feeling can make you uneasy and uncomfortable. If you have tried the treatments outlined and your throat tightness lasts for more than a couple of days or if the problem causes prolonged shortness of breath, it is time to see your healthcare provider.