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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

My throat sticks shut when yawning

11/17/2006

Question:

About 50% of the time when I yawn my throat sticks shut for a few seconds causing me to panic, obviously, because I`m not able to breathe. I consulted my regular doctor and he said he`d never heard of such a thing and did an x-ray on my throat, which found nothing abnormal. Also, when I sleep on my back, I have dreams in which I am stuggling to take a breath because my throat closes shut. I try to not sleep on my back, of course. I am aware that it is a symptom of sleep apnea, but is the throat closing while yawning related? Have you ever heard of that happening before? I do have a very small mouth and a larger thyroid gland. I am not overweight.

Answer:

People with sleep apnea typically have tight throats because of large tonsils, or an elongated and prominent uvula and soft palate, or a very prominent tongue.  All of these anatomical findings cause a narrowing of the throat, and it sounds as though this is your problem.  You would probably benefit from a sleep study.  I would recommend evaluation by an ear, nose, and throat physician.

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Response by:

Allen M Seiden, MD Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati