The esophagus is a muscular tube through which food boluses are delivered into the stomach. It is about 8 inches long and starts from the throat. The esophagus is located behind the windpipe.
Different types of lumps can develop in and near the esophagus. Some are largely benign while others are symptoms of serious diseases such as cancer. This article discusses the common causes of lumps near and in the esophagus. It also highlights some of the treatment options available.
Common causes of lump in esophagus
Muscles at the base of the esophagus open to release food into the stomach, after which they close once again. Tightening of these muscles may produce a feeling of a lump in esophagus. This condition is usually treated with anti-reflux medications. Note that reflux doesn’t cause heartburn.
Benign esophageal stricture
This is a condition that results from narrowing of esophagus. It develops after scar tissue forms on damaged esophageal lining. Spilled stomach acid and other forms of irritants can damage the lining of esophagus. As it heals, scar tissue or inflammation will occur.
Anxiety and stress
It is common to experience a lump-like feeling in esophagus, when anxious or stressed. Emotional stress aggravates inflammation in different parts of the body. It is not rare to develop a lump in lower eyelid associated with emotional stress. Lump in esophagus due to stress doesn’t cause pain or difficulty when swallowing. It also comes and goes but is more profound when after a panic attack for example. Physiotherapy and reflux treatment can improve this condition.
A lesion can develop on the lining of the esophagus. Canker sores are common causes of lesions in this region. Mucosa lesion can also result from a form of trauma or injury.
A tumor in the esophagus can be malignant or not. Cystic lumps, as an example, are not malignant. The same can be said about enlarged thyroid glands. The thyroid gland is located at the base of throat. In case of iodine deficiency in the body, thyroid gland enlarges to form a large hard lump in the esophagus. Esophageal cancer will also cause a hard lump in esophagus.
Common causes of lump near esophagus
You can also experience a lump near the esophagus. Below are potential causes:
Swollen lymph nodes
Lymph nodes located at either side of the neck will swell in case of an infection. When swollen, lymph nodes cause painful lumps.
Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils. Tonsils are located at the back of the mouth. Common symptoms of tonsillitis include red tonsils, pain especially when swallowing and fever.
Tonsil stones are hard small lumps that form on tonsils. They result from accumulation of dead cells, bacterial and other forms of dirt on tonsils. They are usually not painful.
The esophagus, epiglottis and larynx can get inflamed. If this happens, a patient will experience a lump-like feeling near esophagus. A small lump at either side of neck near esophagus can result from arthritis on neck joints. This is however fairly rare. Arthritis is a more common cause of lump on finger joint.
A number of diseases and conditions that causes inflammation or lump formation may be responsible for a lump near the esophagus. For example, a sebaceous cyst can develop under outer skin of the esophagus. Such a lump may still cause some difficulty when swallowing, as much as it is not on esophagus. Sebaceous cysts are common causes of hard lump genital area female symptoms. It is best to get medical diagnosis when not certain.
Symptoms of lump in esophagus
Specific symptoms will depend on the cause of the lump. General symptoms include:
- Tightened throat
- Lump in throat feeling which may come and go
- Lump in throat feeling when swallowing
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
- Lump in throat feeling when stressed or anxious
- A feeling like something is stuck in throat especially after swallowing
- Slight difficulty breathing
- Voice hoarseness
Some lumps will grow large enough to be noticed. Others may only be felt when touched. Lumps such as due to tonsil stones can only be seen by opening your mouth wide enough and looking in the mirror.
If a lump in the esophagus is resulting from an infection or disease, it will be accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, fever, fatigue, nausea, heartburn and vomiting. A lump on right side of neck due to swollen lymph nodes for example is a clear indication of an infection.
Lump in esophagus due to esophageal cancer
Esophageal cancer rarely causes symptoms in its initial stages. This is very unfortunate. You find that cancer lumps are more treatable in their early stages. In most cases, early stage esophageal cancer is discovered by accident.
Below are some of the symptoms that may indicate presence of a lump in the esophagus due to esophageal cancer:
Difficulty when swallowing is the most profound sign of esophageal cancer. Patients experience a feeling as if something is stuck in the esophagus. Naturally, a patient will be inclined to make diet changes and feeding habits. As the tumor grows larger, salivary glands will produce more saliva to aid in swallowing of food.
Unexplained weight loss
Almost all cancer patients will lose weight without trying to. This is very common with esophageal cancer, mostly due to challenges encountered when swallowing.
Pain in chest
The esophagus is located behind the heart and basically the ribcage. A lump on esophagus that keeps growing in mass will exert some pressure on chest, which leads to a form of chronic chest pain. Note that chest pain is not necessarily a guarantee of esophageal cancer.
Esophageal cancer will also be accompanied by other symptoms such as voice hoarseness, chronic cough and bone pain. Most of these are also lump in lung symptoms. In fact, a lump somewhere else near esophagus can be discovered accidentally during a medical checkup or diagnosis. It is therefore very important to get a medical checkup immediately you notice a combination of any of these symptoms.
When to see a doctor
There are more than 50 conditions and diseases that can result in a lump in or near the esophagus. Some of these conditions or diseases are not fatal while others require medical attention.
Benign tumors such as caused by cysts or swollen lymph nodes will resolve even without treatment. You can monitor them for a day or two without medical attention.
If a lump in or near the esophagus appears almost from nowhere, is painful, causes difficulty swallowing and keeps increasing in size, see your doctor immediately. The same can be said about tumors accompanied by symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, chills and sores in mouth or throat.
A lump in the throat feeling due to anxiety or stress may call for a therapeutic treatment approach. At home, you can try measures such as drinking water or going for a walk.
Consider learning more on topics such as lump on and near anus, testicular lumps, how to check for breast lumps, how to know if a lump is cancerous and so on. Commonly ignored conditions such as lumps on skin and body can be early indications of serious medical conditions and diseases. With the resourceful internet that we have today, the element of surprise can greatly be avoided.