Heartburn and chest pain when swallowing can happen when stomach acid damages your esophagus. It might also signal another digestive condition or something more serious.

If you have heartburn when swallowing, you may experience a burning sensation in your chest or throat during mealtimes. This discomfort may happen only when you eat certain foods or beverages. If it happens every time you swallow, that may be a cause for concern.

This discomfort is mainly caused by the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, leading to irritation and inflammation. While heartburn can occur independently, there are instances when heartburn occurs when swallowing.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic and severe form of acid reflux (heartburn). Heartburn occurs when stomach acids and other digestive juices flow backward into your esophagus, the tube that connects your throat and stomach.

Over time, the persistent backflow of stomach acid damages the lining of your esophagus. This can cause inflammation and irritation that may become more painful when you swallow.

GERD can cause other symptoms, including:

  • regurgitation (backflow of stomach contents)
  • persistent cough, often worsened when lying down or after eating
  • a raspy voice
  • a persistent sore throat
  • dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • a persistent cough, especially at night
  • chest pain

Esophagitis happens when there is inflammation in your esophagus. This inflammation is typically caused by external factors, such as GERD, infections, or certain medications.

When your esophagus is inflamed, its delicate lining becomes irritated and sensitive. Swallowing food or liquids can exacerbate this irritation, causing heartburn when you swallow. The inflammation can also lead to the narrowing of the esophagus, making it more difficult for food to pass through.

Esophagitis can also cause other symptoms, including difficulty swallowing, chest pain, and nausea.

Consuming high fat meals, especially fried, greasy foods, can lead to discomfort and a burning sensation when you swallow.

High fat meals can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. When this muscle doesn’t function properly, it allows stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus.

A hiatal hernia occurs when part of your stomach pushes upward through your diaphragm and into your chest cavity. This can weaken the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus, allowing stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus.

This acid irritation can cause a burning sensation or pain, especially during swallowing, since it pushes the acid further up the esophagus.

A hiatal hernia can cause other symptoms, including:

  • regurgitation
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • frequent belching or hiccups

When eating large portions of food during a single meal, your stomach can stretch beyond its comfortable capacity. This can lead to several digestive problems, including heartburn.

When your stomach expands, it puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, which might cause it to relax. When this muscle relaxes, stomach acid can flow back into the esophagus.

The resulting acid reflux can irritate the esophageal lining, leading to a burning sensation or pain.

Esophageal cancer occurs when cancer cells form in the esophagus. As it progresses, esophageal cancer can lead to discomfort and difficulty when swallowing.

As esophageal cancer advances, tumors can grow and obstruct the passage of food and liquids through the esophagus. This narrowing can cause pain or discomfort, especially when swallowing solid foods. Tumors can also irritate the esophageal lining, leading to heartburn.

Esophageal cancer can also cause other symptoms, including:

  • unintended weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • persistent cough
  • hoarseness
  • chest pain
  • fatigue and weakness

Heartburn when swallowing is a common and uncomfortable sensation characterized by a burning pain that radiates from the chest to the throat.

Common causes of heartburn when swallowing include acid reflux, large portions, high fat meals, and more serious conditions such as esophageal cancer.

Consider speaking with a doctor if you experience pain, discomfort, or a burning sensation when swallowing food or immediately after eating.