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What Causes a Lump in Your Throat?

Overview

Feeling a lump in your throat isn’t uncommon. Many people experience this painless sensation at least once in their lifetime. Feeling a lump, bump, or swelling in your throat without having an actual lump is known as globus sensation.

The most important thing that sets globus sensation apart from other potential causes is an impact on swallowing. If you have difficulty swallowing, you may be experiencing another, more serious issue. If you experience this sensation but have no difficulty swallowing, you’re likely experiencing the common globus sensation.

Learn more about what causes a lump in your throat, when it’s a sign of something more serious, and what you can do to ease it.

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Causes

Causes

Doctors and researchers aren’t sure what causes this condition. It can impact people of any age and gender, and it may come and go throughout your life.

Other common conditions that can cause a feeling of a lump in the throat include:

Muscle tension

When not in use for talking or swallowing, throat muscles are often relaxed. However, if they don’t relax correctly, you may feel more tension than normal. This can sometimes feel like a lump or bump in your throat.

Loss of muscle coordination

Your throat’s muscles are designed to relax and contract in a synchronized fashion. This action allows you to swallow correctly. However, if they stop working properly, you may experience muscle tightness when you shouldn’t.

This may be most noticeable when you try to swallow saliva. The uncoordinated muscles won’t prevent you from swallowing or make it more difficult. You will just experience an unusual sensation as you do swallow. Swallowing food may be easier because food stimulates the muscles in your throat differently than saliva.

Learn more about the causes of swallowing difficulty »

Acid reflux

Stomach acid entering your esophagus can cause a feeling of muscle tension or swelling in your throat’s tissues. This may feel like a lump or blockage in your throat.

Keep reading: 7 Foods to help your acid reflux »

Postnasal drip

Excess mucus from the nose and sinuses can accumulate in the back of your throat. This is known as postnasal drip. As it slides down your throat, it can cause a lump-like feeling by causing an increase in sensitivity.

Emotional reactions

Stress, grief, anxiety, and pride are intense emotions that may trigger globus sensation. They can also make the feeling worse. Extreme fatigue may also cause this feeling.

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When to call a doctor

When to call your doctor

It’s important to know that globus sensation isn’t dangerous, and it doesn’t cause additional complications. That means seeing a doctor is often unnecessary.

However, this sensation can be confused with other disorders that do warrant your doctor’s attention. You should call your doctor within a few days if you continue to experience the lump in your throat or if you develop other symptoms. For example, difficulty swallowing can be a sign of a larger problem. Call your doctor if you have difficulty swallowing.

If you’re concerned or would like a clear diagnosis, make an appointment with your doctor. They may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. This doctor will examine your mouth, nose, and throat. They will pass a lighted, flexible, ultrathin telescope through your nose to see inside your sinuses and down into your throat.

This examination doesn’t confirm a globus sensation diagnosis. What it does instead is rule out other possible causes for the lump in your throat. If this test doesn’t reveal other possible issues, the diagnosis is globus sensation.

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Complications

Are there any complications?

Globus sensation is benign. That means it’s not a serious condition and will not result in more serious complications.

However, some conditions may mimic globus sensation at first. In other words, the first symptoms may seem like globus sensation, but additional symptoms will appear eventually.

You should pay attention to additional symptoms that may pop up if you experience a lump in your throat occasionally. In most cases, a globus sensation is a sign of nothing serious, but being alert to changes can help you catch other possible problems early.

These symptoms include:

  • pain
  • difficulty swallowing or choking
  • a lump or mass that can be seen or felt
  • a fever
  • weight loss
  • muscle weakness
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Treatment

Treatment

Globus sensation has no treatment. That’s because doctors and researchers aren’t sure what causes it, and in most people, the sensation will ease quickly.

It’s important to know, however, that if you experience this sensation from time to time you’re not alone. This is a very common feeling, and it isn’t a sign of a more serious problem.

Some of the causes of the lump-in-throat feeling are treatable. If your doctor discovers one of these conditions is responsible for your globus sensation, treatment may help ease the feeling.

Treatment for some common causes of a lump in the throat feeling include:

Muscle therapy

If muscle tension is causing the feeling, you may be referred to an ENT or speech therapist to learn how to ease the tightness when it occurs.

Learn more: Jacobson’s relaxation technique »

Nasal spray

The most common treatment for postnasal drip is nasal spray. Some other treatments include drinking plenty of fluid to keep the secretions thin and mobile. Over-the-counter decongestants may also help remove the buildup and eliminate the drip.

Keep reading: How to use nasal spray »

Therapy

Depression, anxiety, grief, and other mental health issues sometimes cause globus sensation. Talk therapy or treatment with antidepressants may help treat the underlying issues that leading to this feeling.

Help for depression: Treatment options and where to find help »

Antacids

Both over-the-counter antacids and prescription reflux medications can help ease acid reflux. When this is treated, the burning sensation in your throat should ease.

Eating

Simply chewing and swallowing food may be all you need to ease the feeling. Swallowing saliva may cause you to feel a lump in your throat, but swallowing food may ease it.

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Prevention

Preventing the feeling of having a lump in your throat

Because researchers don’t know what causes globus sensation, it’s difficult to understand how to prevent it. The best course of action, then, is to take care of your throat as well as you can.

Follow these healthy-throat tips to prevent possible issues with either globus sensation or other causes of having a lump in your throat:

Drink plenty of water

Staying hydrated is good for more than your skin. It keeps fluids and secretions throughout your body moving properly.

Don’t smoke

Your throat, sinuses, and mouth are greatly impacted using cigarettes and tobacco. Using any of these products increases your risk for many conditions, including cancer.

Rest your voice when you’re sick

When you have a cold or something more serious like laryngitis, rest your throat. The muscles inside your throat are already inflamed and sore from the illness. Using them too much can cause irreversible damage.

Don’t shout

If you find yourself in front of crowds frequently, look to use a microphone when you can. This will reduce strain and wear on your vocal cords and muscles in your throat.

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