Causes of a Burning Throat and Chest

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.

A burning throat could be temporary or indicate something more serious. (Image: sasirin pamai/iStock/GettyImages)

The burning feeling occurs because certain conditions affect the nerves and muscles in the throat and chest.

Painful Swallowing and Burning

Infections that cause painful swallowing and burning sensations include pharyngitis, an inflamed throat resulting from infection, and thrush, a fungal infection caused by Candida. 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.

Tensing and Relaxing

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.

Burning in 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 Mayo Clinic. Medications and a change in diet help relieve symptoms.

Hiatal Hernia Weakness

A hiatal hernia occurs when the hiatus, a small hole in the diaphragm where the esophagus passes into the stomach, weakens and enlarges. According to Harvard Health, hiatal hernias can be caused by vomiting, heavy coughing and sudden physical exertion among others. A "sliding" hiatal hernia happens when a part of the stomach and the gastroesophageal junction insert into the chest. This particular manifestation often appears in smokers, women over 50 and over-weight people. A hernia can go undetected for years or if the symptoms appear, you could be asked to undergo a chest x-ray among other tests.

Heartburn and Heart Attack

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.

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