The throat (pharynx) is the conduit for air, food and drinks to pass between the environment and the respiratory or gastrointestinal system. Problems in the throat may give rise to a number of signs or symptoms. In addition, given its close interaction with neighboring structures – the mouth, nasal cavity, larynx and esophagus – any disorder affecting these sites may also result in throat problems.
Some of the more common throat problem symptoms include :
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Painful swallowing (odynophagia)
- Abnormal breathing sounds, particularly a stridor
- Hoarse voice (dysphonia)
- Swollen neck lymph nodes (cervical lymphadenopathy)
Symptoms and Causes of Common Throat Problems
Difficulty swallowing is known as dysphagia. There are two types of dysphagia – it may be oropharyngeal (mouth-throat) in origin or esophageal (food pipe). Pain upon swallowing known as odynophagia may also be present at times.
The causes of dysphagia related to the throat are discussed further under oropharyngeal dysphagia.
Painful swallowing is known as odynophagia and may originate from pain in the mouth, throat or esophagus. At times, there may be a disruption or difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) accompanying the pain. Most of the causes of pain in the throat when swallowing is linked to pharyngitis or esophagitis. The causes of these conditions are discussed further under :
Persistent odynophagia may be related to the causes of a chronic sore throat.
Noisy Breathing Sounds
A stridor is a monotone, high pitched sound that is a result of a partial obstruction in the upper airway (pharynx, larynx).
Dysphonia may vary from a rough or gruff voice (hoarseness) to a whisper tone voice. The problem usually results from a disorder of the larynx (voice box).
The causes of dysphonia are discussed further under Hoarse, Whisper Voice Causes.
Swollen Neck Lymph Nodes
Swelling of the neck lymph nodes may be evident with any infection of the upper respiratory tract and certain non-infectious conditions as well. This may involve the anterior and posterior cervical lymph nodes, tonsillar, submandibular and/or submental lymph nodes.
Thyroid gland nodules or enlargement of the gland also needs to be excluded. Swollen lymph nodes and nodules may present as a “bump” compared to the centrally located “hump” seen with thyroid gland enlargement.
The causes of cervical lymphadenopathy are discussed further under Swollen Neck Lymph Nodes.
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on October 8, 2010