Is A Burning Throat Serious?
Most of us have experienced a burning throat from at one time or another. Usually it's a seldom occurrence and we may or may not understand what the cause was. At times however, we might experience a more frequent, even regular, occurrence. When this is the case, it's important to either figure out what the cause might be, and if the pain can be avoided, or see a physician.
First of all, let's make a distinction between a sore throat and a burning throat. A sore throat is much more common. We usually associate a sore throat with other symptoms of a cold or the flu. Sometimes a sore throat is the only symptom present and may only last for a day, if that long. Strep throat, tonsillitis, a bacterial infection, chemotherapy, and even dry air can lead to a sore throat. These causes seldom result in a burning throat.
While problems in the mouth can result in a burning throat, the guilty party is most likely the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from your mouth down to your stomach. Any burning sensation you may feel may be in the throat nearer the mouth, deeper in your chest, or both. If the esophagus for any reason becomes inflamed, possibly due to an infection, a burning sensation will result. If you drink a shot or two, or swallow a large slice of habanero pepper, a burning sensation will most certainly result. It will be short-lived, only lasting long enough to let you know you shouldn't do too much of that. A burning throat then does not have to have its basis in infection or disease, but recurring symptoms usually do.
Esophagitis, Heartburn, and GERD - You get a burning sensation in your esophagus when it becomes irritated, swollen, or inflamed. Any of these cause a condition known as esophagitis. Typically esophagitis results from a backup of stomach acid. When this occurs we have a name for it - heartburn. Overeating or eating too quickly can cause heartburn. Eating ice cream too quickly can cause heartburn, and sometimes headaches as well. As is the case with the habanero pepper, your body is simply asking you to take it easy, or change your eating habits. Heartburn can usually be treated by taking an antacid, either in liquid or tablet form. While carrying around a roll of Tums in the event of heartburn seems like a simple solution, there is a danger involved. The relief you get may actually be masking a more serious disorder, and only treating the symptoms. This disorder is the regular occurrence of stomach acid backing up into the esophagus and is called acid-reflux disease, or sometimes GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Acid reflux disease is most apt to strike smokers, heavy eaters, and women who are pregnant. Poor nutritional habits can also trigger the disease, and although it occurs most commonly among adults, children, even infants, can occasionally have the symptoms.
Treatment Is Generally Simple And Effective - Treatment of acid-reflux disease, and its accompanying burning throat and burning chest symptoms, often requires little more than prescribed medication, and perhaps a change in dietary habits, though not usually a drastic change, and often only temporary. In some instances however, surgery can be required. Although the cause of the problem may not lie in the esophagus itself, it is the esophagus that bears the brunt of the punishment. The danger lies in the fact that repeated bouts of acid reflux, and the resulting esophagitis, can eventually scar the esophagus. This can bring on a whole host of problems, including the possibilities of ulcers and infections in the esophagus. In addition, if your esophagus becomes damaged, medications will begin to loose their effectiveness.
In summary, it's OK to take an antacid tablet for an occasional occurrence of a burning throat, but if the condition appears to be happening with any regularity, by all means see your physician. The treatment may be simple while at the same time making it possible to avoid more a serious situation.