Swallowing and throat tightness

Hi. I’m feeling a bit guilty cos I haven’t logged in for ages. But then I saw the new forum emails, so here I am.

I thought I’d ask if anyone else has experience with swallowing problems and if so how did you deal with it?

I got ill with a virus last year. I think it was covid, but before there were tests available. It was scary and I still don’t feel 100% back to where I was before it.

I had a cough that started out dry, became productive and then became dry again and went on for about 16 weeks. I’ve never had a cough last that long before, not even when I had pneumonia once when I was younger. The cough eventually went away but I had problems with my throat ever since, which became a long-lasting problem with swallowing.

It was a real muddle because I thought it was to do with the cough, my GP thought it was acid reflux, and when I went to see ENT , it was obvious that they were in emergency mode because of the pandemic. I can understand that, but it meant if you didn’t have something extremely serious there wasn’t much help. I got prescribed proton pump inhibitors on the off-chance it was acid reflux.

I didn’t want to take them, because they actually have a load of side-effects. Anyway it later turned out that the swallowing problem is actually more likely due to MS as my oesophageal contractions are uncoordinated.

It’s a difficult symptom to manage, and at the worst point I became very scared, because even swallowing water was sometimes a problem. I was pretty close to despair. It’s a lot better now than at that worst point, but I’m scared of ever going back to that.

It’s also still quite tricky to manage day-to-day. There are foods I just can’t eat (dry crumbly, flaky, or bitty food is the worst). If I eat the wrong thing it feels like I’m choking and it can set off a prolonged coughing fit. This irritates my throat and it becomes very sore and raw, and starts to over-produce mucus and it goes into a spiral where I’m clearing my throat constantly and that just keeps the irritation going.

Has anyone experienced similar and do you have any tips on how to manage it better?

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I have similar where I can’t swallow, feels like my throat is closing up. Scary as I feel like I can’t breath.

I find if I slowly sip a warm drink it seems to relax the spasm and ease the swallowing.

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Thanks Amanda. Yes, that feeling you described like your throat is closing up is something I experience with this. Also feeling like you can’t breathe. I had that a lot at the beginning, but thankfully, it isn’t as bad now as when it was at its worst.

Thanks for the tip about sipping a warm drink. I’ll give that a go. It does make sense, because the times when I was having problems even with water, I could still drink a cup of tea (not piping hot, but warm tea).

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Ah yes my Granny always said a wee cup of tea fixes everything :blush::coffee:

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I’ll drink to that! :coffee:

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Hi there,
My husband is having swallowing issues and sounds like your GP should refer you to the speech and language therapist they will monitor your swallowing.

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Hi I have had this problem in the past and have it again at the moment I was told after an MRI it was a plaque on the brain stem It lasted for about 3 months last time and I suppose I am not as frightened by it this time as hopefully, it won’t last
I had a feeding tube the first time which was actually quite a shock for me as other than the swallowing issue I wasn’t that ill It was strange though as I also had terrible problems with my bladder also. Luckily both issues resolved

I’ve had intermittent eating/swallowing problems for about 14 years now, but they started during a particularly bad exacerbation, not when I was sick.

Nowadays when I have trouble, I choke on my own spit, so that’s a sign that I just need to do a lot of warm liquids and stay away from solid foods, dry foods, or anything chunky enough to actually choke me. On those days, I do a lot of coffee and soup without crackers or toast.

I’ve never come across anything as terrifying as that feeling of not being able to breathe.

I have the same problem. The thing I do is stay relaxed because anxiety makes it worse for me to swallow. Unfortunately the cough was more than likely caused by the nerve inflammation (relapse).

Thanks for sharing that. I had plaques on my brain stem on my last MRI as well.

I’m glad to hear that your swallowing and bladder issues resolved.

Thanks. That’s useful to hear. My GP has actually just written a referral letter for me to speech and language therapy.

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Hi Tre. I’m sorry to hear you’re having this problem too. I think you’re 100% right about trying to stay relaxed. I found it really difficult to begin with and I got close to a panic attack on a few occasions and that made everything worse. I have found with time and practice that I’m better at staying calm when this happens.

Hi NorasMom. I know what you mean about it being terrifying when you get that choking feeling and can’t swallow your saliva, and also the tightness in the throat makes it feel like you can’t breathe.

It first happened to me during the first lockdown when I’d been really ill with a virus (I think covid, but I couldn’t get a test at that time). Because I had a cough as well, I was really panicky about my breathing and I was really breathless with the virus as well. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I was phoning NHS 24 all the time because my GP was shut due to the pandemic.

I got brainstem plaques showed up on my MRI after that. I don’t know if I maybe had covid and it triggered an episode of MS.

I’m sorry you’ve been having these swallowing troubles for such a long time and I hope it’s better for you now. I’m much better now than I was last year, but still have it intermittently, but I manage it better now because I don’t panic so much. It helps that the normal health services have opened back up again. It was scary when everything seemed to shut down.

Hi Just to say I have had intermittent problems with swallowing with my MS over last 20 years - these can last 30 mins or so where food/drink in mouth but can not swallow and have to remove as swallow reflex gone…However .My problems started witha vengence after I got covid last March.These swallowing problems are very different. I have swollen neck and throat glands, swollen tongue and roof of mouth, inflammed vocal cords so voice goes hoarse, feel like I am choking or have something stuck…uncomfortable and scarey.Thick mucus stuck in throat. They also tried me on a Protein pump inhibitor, I had very severe reaction to the PPI’s.The long covid clinic have advised that my symtoms are seen in 1000’s with long covid from March /Apr 21.And is inflammation of glands in neck and throat.(Not reflux)…and no there is nothing that they can do to eliviate, Barr wait for immune response to die down,they did refer me to speech and language therapists who say I am doing all that I should(sipping,choosing slippery foods,relax breathing etc).I am 13 months on and still a problem, although no way as scarey as was 9 months ago.Where you feel like you are choking your last breathe.What I can say is that a ginger tea is good to sip as is sucking a licqoicre pellet.Thinking of you

Hi Lesley. That sounds so similar to what I have. I was also prescribed Proton Pump Inhibitors and I also had a bad reaction to them.

There are unfortunately not any long covid clinics in Scotland where I live, but like you this became a problem for me after covid. Unfortunately I can’t prove it was covid because I couldn’t get a test at the time.

Thanks for sharing your experience. When this first happened to me I felt totally alone, so it’s really helpful to be able to share these experiences with people who know how tough it can be to deal with this.

I hope you get some answers and some relief for your symptoms soon, Lesley.

Oh and that’s a great tip about the liquorice and drinking ginger tea. I have tried ginger tea and I do find it soothing. I’ll get some liquorice to try that as well :slightly_smiling_face:

Make sure its the tiny liquorice pellets…not the normal sweets.You will find them on Amazon and sold in small tins…couple of different brands.supposed to help singers with voice…some of the old remedies work.I hear what your saying but FYI the clinics are useless they are only data collecting not treating as there is nothing at present.Consultant even said she was embarassed to say she had passed on my tips to others as she had nothing to give them,

Hi all, I haven’t been on for ages. so glad I did today. I’ve been having the same problems with food & drink it’s so annoying. It began with loss of taste and smell and moved on. My husband did his favourite thing and googled it and came up with dysphagia so I’ll ring the nurse see what she can come up with. What next from this devil’s disease? I was diagnosed in December 2009 soon after I couldn’t walk so have to be hoisted. A friend I made on this forum said we had the devil’s disease and we kept it. Going to hospital next week for an op on my stag horn kidney stone then it shouldn’t be a weekly catheter change.
Hope you are all as well as you can be.
Lost Angel

My second post on the web.
My first was earlier talking about being a ore Olympic shot putter and hammer thrower, read it, pretty interesting!
Yes I totally agree!!
Pretty much any food or liquid causes spasms in my mid esophagus, it is defiantly from MS, I have to stand up and wait a few minutes
The esophagus is smooth muscle with control by the brain, when it gets stuck in mid chest, it’s caused by uncoordinated tertiary contractions, also called tertiary contractions or Feline esophagus!
Feline, cause it is common in cats.
Recently food , any consistency gets cought in my upper esophagus, setting of coughing fits that go on for an hour or so, intil I excuse my self to vomit, some food and mucus I spit up but the irritation continues,
Certainly very self conscious but my family understands and yet I leave the table and go up to my room.
Yes PPI can have serious side effects but your speech therapist will certainly want you to have a barium swallow under flourscopy.
They can see the tertiary contractions and evaluate for a hiatal hernia or simple reflux and a slash of barium entering your pharynx and just quickly enter your upper trachea. Depending on how much and your ability to clear determine treatment , maybe we’ll chosen food but most often liquids.the fear is two:
Aspiration into your trachea and lungs causing severe pneumonia which will kick up your immune system, T and B cells leading to a Telapse.
The other is if you are having reflux, with or without a hiatal hernia, the acid in your stomach will enter your esophagus causing a change in the cell type , this is called “Barrett’s esophagus, a premalignant condition leading to cancer if the esophagus, a very bad condition!
Please, ask your physician to put in a stat order for a Barium swallow, it will give you lots of info about the etiology of the tertiary contractions and the best way to treat it!!
This is a must!
The Barium Swallow is essential and might lead to discovering “BRretts Esophagus, the premalignant condition, if suspect, a upper endoscopy with a biopsy of any suspect areas.
Done under anesthesia, painless and essential!
My best to you, I can certainly relate.
Doc Tom

Thanks for all the info Doc Tom.

I have actually had the Barium swallow done. it showed that my oesophagus has “uncoordinated contractions” but I am initiating my swallow ok. Or at least I was at the time of the investigation. There was a long wait before I could get the investigation done and the worst of my swallowing problem was actually an awful lot better than it was a year ago (which is good news, but I worry about the possibility of it recurring at that level, because last year it was really very bad).

Don’t know if all that makes sense? My GP is referring me to the speech and language therapist.