Lump in Your Throat? What It Might Mean and What to Do About It

Medically Reviewed By Meredith Goodwin, MD, FAAFP
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The medical term for feeling like there is a lump in your throat is “globus sensation.” This is harmless, may be intermittent, and is unrelated to a swallowing problem. It may occur with acid reflux, postnasal drip, and anxiety. It can be difficult to determine the cause. Globus involves the sensation of something stuck in your throat or a throat tightness without a physical blockage. The sensation is not painful and does not interfere with swallowing. People usually feel it in the front of their throats. Eating or drinking may relieve it. Up to 4% of referrals to ear, nose, and throat specialists are for globus. 

Medical treatment includes first ruling other possibilities, such as something in the throat, a swallowing problem, or a tumor pressing on the throat. In fact, treatment may involve reassurance that the lump in the throat sensation is not due to a serious condition.

There is no specific treatment for globus, but some diet and lifestyle changes may help. Medication may help reduce the symptom if it relates to acid reflux, postnasal drip, anxiety, or tension in general.  

This article will discuss several potential causes for this sensation, as well as diagnosis, available treatments, and when to get medical attention for a lump in the throat. 

Acid reflux 

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) affects about 20% of people in the United States. When acid backs up from your stomach into your esophagus, you may feel a burning sensation in your throat or chest.

When you have GERD you may also have a sense of a lump in your throat or feel like you must always clear your throat. GERD can also cause hoarseness, a sore throat, or a tight throat sensation. 

Your doctor can usually diagnose GERD based on these symptoms and may prescribe antacid or acid-suppressing medication. If treatment reduces your globus sensation, it suggests GERD is the potential cause. Up to 68% of people with globus sensation have acid reflux. 

Learn about acid reflux treatment options here.

Anxiety and stress 

Experiencing stress or anxiety may cause a globus sensation or make it worse. This may be from tight muscles in your neck or frequent swallowing and throat drying.

Any type of strong emotion may cause globus. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist for assistance with stress management or further evaluation of behavioral conditions. This may include breathing and stress reduction exercises.

Learn about stress management here.

Postnasal drip

Your nose and throat have glands that produce mucus, which helps clean the nose and throat membranes and clear out infections.

You swallow it without thinking about it. But feeling mucus gathering in the back of your throat is postnasal drip. Irritation from the mucus may cause the throat tissues to swell, which can cause discomfort and a feeling of a lump in your throat. Additional symptoms may include:

A doctor may treat your postnasal drip with antihistamines or decongestants. If you have a bacterial infection, they may prescribe antibiotics. Drinking more water and using saline nasal irrigation may thin out mucus and help alleviate postnasal drip. 

Learn more about nasal irrigation here.

Thyroid conditions

Your thyroid gland can enlarge, which can create pressure and the sensation of a lump in your throat. Thyroid nodules may cause this as well.

More than 90% of thyroid nodules are noncancerous, but your doctor may want to evaluate them by ultrasound. If the ultrasound detects an anomaly, your doctor may request a biopsy to rule out cancer.

Your throat and globus explained

Your throat, or pharynx, contains several important structures and glands. The esophagus carries food from your mouth to your stomach. The trachea connects the larynx to the lungs. The trachea produces mucus to keep dust and allergens out of your lungs.

Sitting in front of the trachea and larynx is the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland. It manages metabolism, including your heart rate.  

Muscles in your neck help you swallow. If certain muscles fail to tense or relax in the right sequence, it may create a feeling of a lump in your throat. 

Symptoms that may accompany globus include:

  • pressure in the throat 
  • sensation of something stuck 
  • tightness
  • discomfort
  • itchy or scratchy feeling in the back of your throat
  • excess mucus

When to contact your doctor 

If your symptoms do not go away or they suddenly worsen, get medical attention. Additional symptoms that warrant a call to the doctor include: 

Additionally, call 911 if you experience difficulty breathing.

Diagnosing a potential cause of lump in throat

Your doctor will take your health history and conduct a physical exam of your head, neck, and nose. They will try to pinpoint a specific cause of the throat lump sensation. They will ask about any accompanying symptoms, how long you have had the lump sensation, whether the symptoms are constant or come and go, and if the onset was sudden or gradual.

Your doctor may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for further evaluation. You may have imaging tests, such as an endoscopy, ultrasound, or a CT scan. Your doctor may want to test your swallowing function, such as a barium swallow. 

Treating the cause of lump in throat 

After ruling out and treating physical causes, your doctor will reassure you that globus is noncancerous. Still, there is no single, effective treatment for it. Home remedies may relieve globus sensation.

Home remedies and self-care

Strategies that may help with some causes include:

  • drinking at least 6 cups of water daily 
  • avoiding spicy and fatty foods, alcohol, smoking if possible, and clearing your throat
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • reducing stress

If these strategies do not bring relief or you need guidance, get medical attention.

Medical treatment

Your options depend on what causes globus syndrome:

  • GERD. If you have globus from GERD, your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce acid reflux.
  • Anxiety or stress. If you have globus from anxiety and stress, your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist. Speech therapy can potentially assist with behavioral modifications to reduce throat clearing and improve stress management and adequate hydration, for example.
  • Postnasal drip. Over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal irrigation systems may help clear the lump sensation in your throat if postnasal drip is the cause.  

FAQs

Here are some questions that people asked about a lump in throat feeling.

When should I worry about a lump in my throat?

Contact a healthcare professional for a lump in your throat to evaluate a potential cause. Other reasons to get medical care are if it does not go away with self-care or prescribed treatment or you have additional, concerning symptoms, such as pain and difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Is a lump in the throat a sign of throat cancer? 

A lump in the throat is not a sign of throat cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Symptoms of early throat cancer include voice changes.

Symptoms of more advanced cancer include pain or difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, and persistent sore throat, among others. Cancer that spreads to the lymph nodes in the neck may cause a visible lump or mass in the neck.  

Do throat lumps go away?

A throat lump may go away with treatment. If a healthcare professional discovers a growth or lesion in the throat, they may treat it with endoscopy or surgery. Globus is different — it is a feeling of a lump in the throat when a lump is not present.

Globus may resolve with reassurance — from a medical professional — that there is nothing physically wrong with your throat or after treatment of related causes, such as GERD or postnasal drip.

Summary 

A feeling of a lump in your throat without any additional concerning symptoms is known as globus sensation. It is usually harmless and may resolve on its own. Conditions that may cause a lump in throat feeling include GERD, anxiety, and postnasal drip.

Contact a healthcare professional if you feel a lump in your throat constantly or if the sensation comes and goes but does not go away completely. A doctor can help rule out serious conditions. You may be able to treat some causes at home with changes in diet and self-care. Medication or therapy may also help reduce the sensation.

If you are under treatment and your symptoms get worse or you have new, concerning symptoms, get medical attention.  

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Medical Reviewer: Meredith Goodwin, MD, FAAFP
Last Review Date: 2022 Jul 22
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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