Swollen outer throat, Difficulty swallowing, numb/no sensation when swallowing

Posted , 27 users are following.

Hi all,

I have had this issue for a few months now. Basically my throat as in the larnyx, adams, apple, thyroid area outside of the throat seems to swell up and became extremely painful to swallow, so this is other throat rather then inside the throat like a sore throat. Anyway, this seemed to flare up and I was having clicking and cracking in my throat when swallowing. One day I was eating some bread and there was loud crack when I swallowed, after that swalloing was extremely painful, and it was difficult to get food down, this was all still outer throat, from reading I think it would probably be the thyroid cartilage and larynx that were swollen and somehow causing these issues. I could deal with the pain but then one morning I woke up and my throat now what felt like the inside of my throat had gone completely numb, literally like I had sucked on a numbing throat sweet. It also feels like my swallow mechinism is somehow not working correctly, like I can swallow but there is no sensation and it feels like the normal movement of the throat cartilidge is now somehow stuck and not moving freely when I swallow.

Anyway I went to the doctors who brushed it off as nothing the first couple of times, then I saw a different doctor and explained what had happened and he refered me to the ENT specialist. I have seen the ENT specialist and he has diagnosed me with silent Reflux, basically acid reflux but without the heartburn etc. I dont think I agree with this diagnosis and want to get to the bottom of the numb malfuctioning swallow as the numb sensation is so strange and horrible it is driving me mad with anxiety.

I do not really have any symptoms of slient reflux/acid reflux. The way these issues started all on my outer throat would not match acid reflux either, as well as the fact my throat went numb so suddenly. Maybe it isnt numb and it is just that my swollow mechanism is not working correctly but it sure feels numb. It literally feels like nothing happens when I swallow, there is no recognition or sensation when I swallow unless I get a click noise which i assume is the swollen cartilge getting caught somehow. The area is still swollen from top of neck/throat to the bottom. As I have been diagnosed with reflux doctors will just now fob me off without any sort of solution. I am taking the medication for this so called silent reflux I have just to see if there is any change but there has been none so far. If it is silent reflux how would I even no if medication is working as I have no symptoms like heartburn, sort throat, voice issues or anything.

Anyway sorry for such a long post, has anyone else experienced something like this? Does anyone have any idea what it could be and what I can do about it?


2 likes, 40 replies

40 Replies

  • Posted

    I have not suffered any of the symptoms you have but it sounds quite frightening. I was diagnosed with achalasia 4 years ago but the symptom started with acid reflux but got progressively worse to the point I couldn't even drink in the end without it coming back up. I did have an operation for this and everything was fine for a year then I suffered with muscle spasms of the oesophagus, these are extremely painful but I now have Borulinum toxin injection (Botox) which has been a great help. I am sorry this doesn't help you but I hope you find out the cause very soon and don't have to suffer too long before you find out exactly what the cause is.
  • Posted

    Hi Cathie, Thanks for your reply. Sorry to hear about what you have been suffering with that doesnt sound nice at all. I hope the botox continues to give you some relief.

    Yes im struggling for ideas as to what could be causing my issues. Another thing which I should have mentioned is that my mouth is contastly so dry, I drink tons of water but its doesnt help. These things must be linked.

  • Posted

    This is the most bizzare symptoms that I have heard of! I feel for you but I wanted to respond to let you know that most doctors chalk mysterious symptoms like this to Acid Reflux. It's so typical and it also happened to me and I have Achalasia. It generally takes about 2 years for a diagnosis and 40% of the time doctors get it wrong. 

    If I were you I would try and see a Throat Dr. I feel like they will be able to guide to correctly. 

    Also it sounds like you may also have burning mouth syndrome with the dryness issue. Look into this with the Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor. It's a good start and most know what they are doing! Good luck..

  • Posted

    Hi, I have had your symptoms.  For me it was reflux, although it was more obvious since I could feel the heartburn.  I don't know about "silent reflux" or its rarity; my symptoms included a numb-ish-feeling throat and odd sensations, especially like something caught in my throat near the top and just a general sense of swollenness in my throat, under my jaw and occasionally in my tongue, making me mumble words from time to time.  Basically, the most worrying part of them was just that things like swallowing or spitting felt somehow 'different' or 'uncomfortable', and there was a minor soreness, but mostly it was just very worrying.  What a lot of the swelling sensation might be is from two sources: The general inflammation from the reflux, and the tails of your tonsils becoming inflamed and enlarged, which lie deeper in your throat than you can see.

    You should see a GI, and they will probably want to do an upper endoscopy or a CT; if you are experiencing that degree of erosion, you probably have pathological symptoms lower in your esophagus which can eventually become quite problematic in a variety of ways.  The ENT has little to offer you; if they can't see it from in your mouth, then the only other things they can do is a sinuscopy (which is very limited in the parts of your throat that can be explored, and is wholly unpleasant!) or send you to a radiologist for a CT, as far as non-surgical things go.  The gastroenterologist has the much more sophisticated endoscopy, and can also order a CT if they think it's a good idea.  So really, I agree with your doctor in that the GI is the next step in your diagnosis.

    Good luck, stop stressing!

  • Posted

    Hi everyone,

    So just an update on this and hopefully some advice if anyone has any. So around a year on from when my throat went "numb" or when the swallow mechanism and cartilage seemed to stop moving correctly, I am still here with exactly the same symptoms. 

    I tried medication for reflux but that made no change. Im sure it isn't reflux thats causing these symptoms anyway; I have since been back and seen another ENT who said I do not have reflux and there is no sign of any reflux, so im not sure what the previous ENT saw, think he just wanted to fob me off. Anyway the ENT doesn't know what suggest regarding my numb throat, they cant see anything wrong inside the throat using the camera but he said maybe there is some damage to some cartilidge or a ligamant in there causing these symptoms but he doesnt have any ideas on what can be done and says it may be something I have to live with. Not exactly what I wanted to hear.

    Anyway I was refered on to a speech therapist to see if they had any ideas. I have seen them a few times now and they cannot work out what is going on either. I had a video flouroscopy/barium swollow study, they could not see anything signifcant other than my epiglottis apparently looks bunced up and the whole are looks tense and restricted they say. They dont know what to suggest and say theres not anything more they can do.

    So now im really not sure what to do? Something has structurally malfuctioned in my throat, the whole area is swollen and often aches by the end of the day. When I swollow with my head in a normal position if feels like the throat cartilidge is unable to move upwards freely and contract as it would when normal, It feels like there is something blocking the upward movement and I imagine this would be why I feel no sensation "numb" in the throat when I swallow. If I tilt my head slightly forward and down when I swollow there is a loud crack like the cartidldge is trying to move upward past something but it gets caught on it and clicks on the way up.

    Has anyone experienced anything like this? Did you manage to find out what it was and find a resolution? Would really appreciate any ideas. Maybe I try and push for an MRI? cant see them giving me one though.

    Sorry for such a long post, this numb non existent swallow, the swelling and the clicking is just really getting me down.


    • Posted

      The doctors seem to be puzzled, and if they cannot work out a diagnosis, I am not sure that we can either, but I would suggest that perhaps reflux may be a part of the problem if the stomach contents being refluxed are piossibly making things a bit worse.   I think I would try taking Gaviscon Advance, on the basis that this would help temporarily, for a few hours, regardless of whether the reflux is aid or alkali (PPI medication like omeprazole only deals with acid).   Make sure you drink plenty of water and have soothing things like honey to try and make your throat as comforatble as possible.   Avoid spicy food and concentrate on eating bland and liquid food for a while to give your throat a chance to settle down.

      ​It does sound like the problem is around your epiglottis.   If it is something to do with a ligament / cartilage there it is possible that it might be better to let it try and heal itself unless the doctors are sure abiout what has gone wrong and have a definite plan for fixing it, with possible risks involved with the procedure.

      ​I think I would try massaging your throat area to see whether that makes a difference.    Try and create the conditions that will be as gentle as posisble for this part of your body, try relaxing exercises and see how it goes from there?

    • Posted

      Thanks for the reply. Yes im not sure anyone here will be able to help but I live in hope as I dont have anywhere else to turn really.

      In terms of the reflux, yes I drink lots and lots of water, have a good diet that is gentle on the stomach and throat etc but after having this throat issue for a year now I really dont think that is going to make any difference and I am sure reflux has nothing to do with the problem which is all outer throat, although I guess it could add to swelling if I do have it. It all began with pain and swelling over the thryroid and throat cratilage and progressed until it malfuctioned and im now left with the numb, limited swallow.

      I will try massaging the area etc and hope that things change over time but it has literally been the same every single day for a year so I think it needs some sort of intervention if it is ever to get back to normal.

      Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it.

    • Posted

      i have a problem swallowing too. Clunking and terrible swallowing action. My gp says reflux bla bla bla I'm sick of no one listening. I'd like to chat on the phone to you I'm thinking about going to pay for professional help
    • Posted

      Hi Matty, yes its so frustrating isn't it. Hopefully we can find an answer. I have sent you a private message.
    • Posted

      Meanwhile, 'A Patient's Guide to Achalasia' is available for download from the website of the Oesophageal Patients Association, under The Oesophagus and Achalasia, towards the bottom of the page.   But do not forget that there may be other conditions as well!

  • Posted

    I literally have the same symptoms as you! I have crackling in throat feels like I need to clear my throat, numbness in throat, my ears pop, it's so bizarre!!

  • Posted

    My grandmother had something very similar to what you're having. Have you been tested for a hyanial hernia ( i'm sure I did not spell that correctly)

  • Posted

    Please tell me you still get on !! So i read your first post about the brain fog headaches ringing etc and your symptoms matched mine literally to a TEE so I clicked your profile, seen this post and I also have this issue as well!!!!!!! There is no way that's a coincidence !

  • Posted

    I suffer these symptoms too, it's horrendous and made worse by not getting any answers from tests or scans. I have seen two ENTs and neither can get to the bottom of it but just say it might be calcification or ossification of a cartilage and not to worry, yet for me it has got progressively worse from first happening very rarely when I swallowed saliva to now happening virtually all the time with food and drink. 

    Google searches are scary and throw up multiple possible causes ranging from serious neurological and autoimmune diseases to TMJ problems and tight pterygoid muscles. The numb sensation is the worst bit for me, it's like I can't tell if I have swallowed properly and worry that it might have gone down the wrong hole sad 

    Has anyone had any answers or progress since they last posted? It is reassuring to know a few people have the same symptoms, hopefully one of us will strike it lucky with a diagnosis and pass it on. 

    • Posted

      If you swallow food and 'it goes down the wrong hole' it would have somehow by-passed your oesophagus and become diverted into your lungs.   You would know about this because you would end up with severe coughing.   But I understand that you are describing the effect of the numbness and not knowing where the food is going.

      ?I think it is quite possible become completely panicked by what you find on the internet.   Personally i would put more reliance on the doctors who have actually examined you.   Sometimes their tests are progressively eliminating the likely causes.

      ?Meanwhile, I would feel inlclined to try some form of massage or relaxation techniques on the basis that it won't do any harm, and might improve things.

    • Posted

      It's more the sensation of not feeling where the food or drink is going that made me write it makes me wonder if it has gone down the wrong hole, I agree I would soon know about it if it had gone down the wrong hole, silent aspiration can occur but at some you would know about it! 

      I agree with you about the internet too but unfortunately my experience with Doctors has been mixed, they have often contradicted advice from their own colleagues and that is frustrating and who should you believe when two consultants directly contradict each other? Funnily enough I had a consultation today and have been pointed back towards an orthopaedic consultant to get my cervical spine looked at, something a Radiologist has said isn't causing the problem.

      Thanks for taking the time to reply and reassure, I appreciate and agree with the points you have made, stress makes things worse and relaxation will hopefully help and definitely won't hurt smile

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