Lump in Throat: 8 Common Causes & How to Relieve it

Updated in October 2023

A lump in the throat is most commonly caused by excess mucus in the throat from allergies, colds or flu. However, this sensation can also be related to a health condition, like  gastroesophageal reflux, thyroid problems, epiglottis swelling, myotonic dystrophy or even neck cancer.

The sensation of a lump in the throat is usually very uncomfortable and can be accompanied by other symptoms depending on the cause, such as difficulty breathing, pain in the area, nausea, hoarseness and difficulty swallowing.

If the lump you feel in your throat is persistent and is accompanied by other symptoms, you are advised to consult a doctor to identify the cause and start the most appropriate treatment.

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Why do I feel a lump in my throat?

The most common causes of a lump in the throat are:

1. Mucus in the throat

Mucus is in throat is one of the most common causes of a lump in the throat. Mucus or phlegm accumulation can be a consequence of a cold or flu, allergy, or throat infection. Learn more about what causes mucus in the throat and how it can be treated.

What to do: In this case, you are advised to partake in home remedies to thin the phlegm so it can be easily eliminated. This can be done by gargling with salt water 3-4 times a day, drinking at least 2 liters of water during the day and using steam nebulizers.

In cases where the throat clearing persists for about 3 days or is accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to consult a general practitioner or pulmonologist to identify the cause of the throat clearing and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

2. Stress and anxiety

Emotional reactions like stress and anxiety can cause a lump in the throat, nausea and vomiting, chest tightness, muscular tension and tremors.

How to relieve it: To alleviate this sensation when it is caused by anxiety, you should use relaxation techniques like yoga or mindfulness, and you should seek the assistance of a therapist. If your stress and anxiety symptoms are not relieved with relaxation techniques or with a therapist, you may need to complete treatment with anxiety medications, which should be prescribed by a psychiatry.

You may also find relief by preparing teas with herbs for anxiety, which have relaxing and soothing properties.

3. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD consists of the back-up of stomach content into the esophagus toward the mouth. It can cause pain, burning and inflammation, as well as a sensation of a lump in the throat. The intensity of symptoms depends on the acidity of the stomach contents, as well as the amount of acid in contact with esophageal tissue. Learn more about acid reflux and how it is treated.

How to relieve it: To reduce pain and discomfort in the throat caused by acid, treatment will usually consist of the use of proton pump inhibitors (medications that reduce stomach acid production) like omeprazole or pantoprazole. Antacids can also be prescribed, like aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide and sodium bicarbonate. Medications should be taken as prescribed by the doctor.

Many patients may also benefit from a GERD diet, which helps to speed-up recovery and prevent worsening or flare-ups.

4. Thyroid problems

The thyroid gland is found in the neck, and therefore any pain in the area can be the result of a nodule or mass in the thyroid. This can alter the normal function of the thyroid gland.

Check-out our online thyroid symptoms quiz to determine your risk for a thyroid-related condition.

How to relieve it: If your lump in the throat is related to thyroid problems, you should consult an endocrinologist, you can order testing to assess thyroid function and indicate appropriate treatment.

5. Swollen epiglottis

A swollen epiglottis, also known as laryngeal angioedema, can occur due to a serious allergic reaction. It is characterized by seve swelling of the throat, causing a lump in the throat as well as difficulty breathing. 

How to relieve it: If you experience swelling in the epiglottis, you should proceed immediately to the emergency room to prevent respiratory failure and death.

6. Myasthenia gravis

Myasthenia gravis is an illness that can cause many symptoms, including weakness in the neck muscles which make holding your head up straight difficult. This can cause your head to hang forward or to the side, which may sometimes cause a feeling of a lump in the throat.

How to relieve it: The treatment of myasthenia gravid consists of the use of medication that promote muscle control. Many times, the thymus must be surgically removed. This gland is associated with the immune system, and its removal can sometimes improve the quality of life of affected patients.

7. Myotonic dystrophy

Myotonic dystrophy is a genetic disease that is characterized by prolonged muscle contractions that have difficulty relaxing. The most affected muscles are those of the face, neck, hands, feet and back of the arms. It is possible for people with this illness to experience a lump in the throat. 

How to relieve it:  The treatment of myotonic dystrophy can include the use of medication like phenytoin, quinine, procainamide or nifedipine, which help to alleviate muscle rigidity and associated pain. Physiotherapy can also help to increase muscle strength.

8. Neck cancer

In more serious cases, a lump in the throat can be due to neck cancer, which is usually accompanied by other signs and symptoms like a palpable mass, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, frequent choking, weight loss and general malaise.

How to relieve it: If the feeling of a lump in the throat is due to a tumor, the doctor should indicate treatment based on the stage of cancer and the health history of each individual patient.