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Learning About a Lump in the Throat

What is a lump in the throat?

The condition that people refer to as a "lump in the throat" is a feeling that an object is stuck in your throat. It's also called globus (say "GLOH-bus"). You don't really have anything stuck there. But the feeling is real, and it can be uncomfortable.

This feeling may be there all the time, or it may happen now and then. It's not painful. The lump is felt in the front of the throat. It may feel like it moves up and down when you swallow.

It's not clear where this feeling in the throat comes from. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may contribute to it. Reflux means that stomach acid and juices flow from the stomach back up into the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach. (This tube is called the esophagus.) The lump in the throat may have other causes. These include problems with swallowing, as well as muscle spasms in the esophagus. It may also be felt as a result of stress or an anxiety disorder.

In some cases, the feeling goes away by itself over time.

How is it treated?

The doctor will first examine you to try to find the cause of the feeling of the lump in your throat. He or she may give you medicine to reduce stomach acid to see if it helps relieve the lump sensation. If anxiety is a factor, the doctor may work with you to address it.

If you still feel like there's a lump in your throat, your doctor may give you a variety of other tests. He or she may examine your throat, neck, voice box (pharynx), and esophagus to see if you have any blockage. Your doctor may use a thin, flexible tube, called a scope, to look deep into your throat. This is called a laryngoscopy. Or you may have a swallowing study that uses X-rays to film your throat as you swallow.

If the tests find a problem that can be treated, your doctor will treat you for it. You may have speech therapy to learn how to relax the muscles of your throat or swallow differently. And just finding out that there's no physical cause for the lump in your throat may help you feel better.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Try not to clear your throat or swallow too often.
  • Have something to eat or drink. This may give you some relief for a while.
  • Try to relax and reduce stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation may help.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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