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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Throat spasm

02/23/2006

Question:

Dr, what causes throat spasms? For the past year, my throat spasms and I start coughing and my eyes tear and run down my face so much, people think I`m crying. Then I start gagging. It makes it so difficult at work since my job is teaching. thank you.

Answer:

I would probably need more information to  be sure of how to characterize your problem.  However, throat spasms can be caused by reflex contraction of various muscles of the throat or voice box.   The causes can range from neurological disorders to acid reflux.  In fact the most common cause of your complaints would be acid reflux.  The symptoms that you describe are quite typical of stomach acid, and possibly food, that reflux up into the throat area.  Additional complaints include occasional hoarseness, mucus accumulation in the throat (mistakenly many call this sinus drainage), frequent throat clearing, possibly a burning or acid sensation, halitosis and a lump sensation in the throat. 

This condition is treated with a combination of lifestyle and dietary changes and a prolonged course of acid suppression.  Foods and beverages that contribute to acid reflux would include alcohol, tomatoes, coffee, carbonated beverages (specifically those that are caffeinated) and chocolate.  Some have difficulty with spicy foods.  Lying down after eating exascerbates this condition as does being overweight.  Raising the head of the bed is also helpful.

If you have many of these symptoms, you should be evaluated by and Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.  Even if you don't think that you have acid reflux you should still see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist so that your throat can be properly inspected and hopefully diagnosed.

Good luck with this problem.

 

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Response by:

Keith M Wilson, MD Keith M Wilson, MD
Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Head and Neck Division
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati