We have all experienced a burning sensation in the throat at some point in our lives; consuming foods that are too hot, for example, makes us experience a light inflammation in the back of the mouth.
Other than these common but trivial occurrences, throat inflammation can also happen due to other health reasons and may signal the existence of an underlying medical condition.
A burning sensation in the throat could suggest any of the following medical conditions.
Gastrooesophageal reflux disease
Inflammation in the throat could mean you are experiencing Gastrooesophageal reflux disease (also called GORD), which is a chronic digestive disease in which the stomach acid travels back to the oesophagus. GORD or acid reflux can irritate the oesophagus lining and the throat.
When the stomach acid travels far enough to reach the throat, it is called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR, also called silent reflux). In LPR, there is no heartburn or upset stomach like in GORD but there may be other symptoms like:
- Chronic irritation in the throat
- Chronic cough
- Excessive phlegm in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
An allergic reaction is one of the most common reasons for a burning sensation in the throat, often as a result of an unpleasant reaction to airborne particles or pollutants.
Throat inflammation could also be a sign of food allergies and could be followed by other symptoms such as:
- Itchy throat
Oesophagitis refers to the inflammation in the oesophagus that leads to the feeling of a burning sensation in the throat.
In addition to the feeling of a warm burning sensation, oesophagitis accompanies symptoms such as chest pains and excessive belching.
Oesophagitis can be caused due to various reasons, the most common being excessive use of anti-inflammatory medicine and food allergies. Chemotherapy and GORD can also lead to oesophagitis.
A sore throat due to a flu or common cold is one of the most common causes of a burning sensation in the throat.
Infections that affect the throat can be identified with symptoms like:
- Runny nose
Viral infections in the upper respiratory tract affect the nasal passage, throat, and sinus and may cause irritation and inflammation in the throat.
Bacterial infections are less common and cause what is most often called strep throat; they are also followed by symptoms like:
- Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck
- White patches on the tonsils
- Body aches
Drainage from Eustachian tubes
Eustachian tubes are the passageways that connect the back of the throat and the nose to the middle ear. Any change of balance in the tubes due to colds or infections may lead to a buildup of fluid in the middle ear that can drain into your throat.
Postnasal drip, for example, is where the mucus can drain into the back of the throat; this is often a result of excess mucus production owing to allergies and infections.
Burning mouth syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome is the continuous burning sensation in the mouth for no obvious reason.
You may experience irritation or a burning sensation in the mouth, tongue, gums, and even lips and the palette. Other symptoms that may occur are loss or change of taste, dry mouth, and a metallic taste in the mouth.
Seeking treatment for burning sensation in the throat
Treatment options for throat inflammation vary depending on the underlying medical cause.
Common home remedies such as over the counter pain medicines, saltwater gargles, and throat lozenges are effective for viral infections. Both bacterial and viral infections, however, need a specialist diagnosis if they are persistent.
Pain and inflammation due to GORD and LPR can be reduced by certain lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or limiting trigger foods like spicy food, chocolates, and citrus foods.
As with GORD and LPR, throat inflammation could also be a symptom that signifies other gastrointestinal issues that are not apparent.
If symptoms persist, consult a specialist for an accurate diagnosis and the best treatment options.