Burning sensations in the throat and chest can produce discomfort or concerns for people who experience the symptoms. The burning pain signals something that is temporary or it could be an underlying sign of a serious disorder. The burning feeling occurs because certain conditions affect the nerves and muscles in the throat and chest.
Infections that cause painful swallowing and burning sensations include pharyngitis, an inflamed throat resulting from infection, and thrush, a fungal infection caused by Candida, according to the National Institutes of Health. A mild infection called cytomegalovirus causes an enlargement of protective cell layers in the throat. Other disorders that cause painful swallowing include gum disease, the herpes simplex virus and HIV. Tooth infections or abscesses can result in throat infection and pain as well.
Food that gets stuck in the throat, such as fish or chicken bones, can cause difficulty swallowing and a heaviness or pressure in the upper chest and neck while eating, the National Institutes of Health says. Mouth or throat disorders and inflammation of the esophagus bring about throat pain. Esophageal spasms and achalasia, a condition in which smooth muscle bands in the throat fail to relax enough for food to pass, can present problems in the throat and chest.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a major cause of burning sensations in the chest and throat. GERD is a serious form of heartburn which occurs occasionally in many people. It happens when the lower esophageal sphincter, which stops stomach acid from coming back up, is weakened, allowing acid to back up and cause heartburn. The reaction happens frequently in people with GERD, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Medications and a change in diet help relieve symptoms.
A hiatal hernia occurs when the hiatus, a small hole in the diaphragm where the esophagus passes into the stomach, weakens and enlarges. Stomach muscles may protrude into it resulting in frequent episodes of heartburn or GERD. The condition is rarely serious and happens to more than half of people older than age 60, the University of Maryland Medical Center says.
At times it may be difficult to tell the symptoms of heartburn and a heart attack when it comes to chest pain. Heart attack usually involves a sudden pressure, tightening or crushing pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes, the Mayo Clinic explains. The pain can spread to the neck, jaw, shoulders, arms or back. Symptoms may be accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness or nausea. People with symptoms that feel worse than normal heartburn need to seek emergency treatment.