Your throat is a tube that carries food to your esophagus and air to your windpipe and larynx. The technical name for the throat is pharynx.

Throat problems are common. You’ve probably had a sore throat. The cause is usually a viral infection, but other causes include allergies, infection with strep bacteria or the upward movement of stomach acids into the esophagus, called gastric reflux. Many throat problems are minor and go away on their own. Treatments, when needed, depend on the problem.

Swallowing disorders

If you have a swallowing disorder, you may have difficulty or pain when swallowing. Some people cannot swallow at all. Others may have trouble swallowing liquids, food or saliva. This makes it hard to eat. Often, it can be difficult to take in enough calories and fluids to nourish your body. Anyone can have a swallowing disorder, but it is more likely in the elderly.

Conditions that can cause throat discomfort and swallowing disorders include:

  • Acid reflux (stomach acid backup into the throat)
  • Diseases that paralyze the vocal cords
  • Growths due to a virus or cancer
  • Head or spinal cord injury
  • Infections (tonsillitis)
  • Laryngitis or pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx)
  • Spasms (spasmodic dysphonia)
  • Stroke
Medicines can help some people, while others may need surgery. Swallowing treatment with a speech-language pathologist can help, too.

NIH: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders


Swallowing function can be restored in many patients, along with quality of life. Your physician will start by ruling out some common causes based on your symptoms and initial an examination. Appropriate testing will be conducted, followed by the best treatment options for you as your condition is diagnosed.

Here are some possible tests and treatments available to you at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center:

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Why Choose Ohio State?

Specialty trained: Our physicians who specialize in voice and swallowing disorders are fellowship-trained surgeons. These specialists receive training above the level most ENT specialists receive. Half of the fellowship specialists in all of Ohio can be found here.

Depth of experience: Our department sees up to 30 patients or more in a day. They can range from anyone who’s coughing more than they should be to nationally renowned touring singers with vocal impairment.

Clinical excellence: We’re considered the worldwide experts on paradoxical vocal cord motion disorder (PVCMD) – a vocal cord abnormality that mimics asthma – partly because our academic affiliation enables us to conduct research that leads to better diagnosis and treatment. In fact, we see more patients for PVCMD than any other facility in the United States.

Unique treatments: While surgery may be your only option at other hospitals, we often offer various other safe and effective alternatives. This includes using an in-office injection procedure we conducted leading research on.

Nationally ranked: Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center is recognized by U.S.News & World Report one of the nation’s best hospitals for care of the ear, nose and throat.

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