Everything You Should Know About Odynophagia

Odynophagia Definition:

Dysphagia (from Greek – dys- + phagein -to eat) refers to the inability or unwillingness to swallow food, which results from a blockage of the esophagus. Dysphagia may result from congenital conditions such as cystic fibrosis, or it may develop due to trauma such as car accidents, surgery, choking during childbirth and other medical procedures. The term “odynophobia” was coined to refer to those individuals who are unable to vomit after eating certain foods.

The word “odynophagia” comes from the Latin words odon meaning stomach and phagium meaning blockage. Odon means stomach, while phagium means blockage. Therefore, when someone has a blocked esophagus, they have a blocked or impeded stomach. When someone has a blocked stomach, they do not feel full even though they consume large amounts of food.


In Ancient Greece, the word “odont” meant “stomach”. The word “ophagus” came into use around 200 BC. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word “ophagous” first appeared in English in 1660. By 1823, the word had been used to mean “eaten up with hunger” or “gluttony,” and by 1829, it had taken on the meaning of an inability to swallow.

This word, in its modern usage, is usually used to describe a medical condition where swallowing is difficult or painful.

The word “odynophobia” comes from the combination of two different Greek words: “odyn” meaning pain and “phobia” meaning fear. The term comes from the fact that people with this condition experience painful swallowing or odynophagia.

Odynophagia is a condition where the patient experiences difficulty in swallowing. This problem can lead to vomiting of food, fluids or blood. Pain may also be felt in the neck or throat area. While odynophagia is most common in individuals who have had recent dental work, it can also be caused by more serious medical conditions such as head and neck cancer.

A physician should be consulted if symptoms persist or worsen. In most cases, a general physician can treat this condition.

Odynophagia Diagnosis:

The following diagnostic tests may be used to identify odynophagia:

An endoscopy is a procedure where a thin, lighted tube is inserted into the mouth and down the throat. The tube allows the doctor to view the lining of the esophagus and stomach.

A biopsy involves the removal of tissue from the esophagus for examination under a microscope. A pathologist views the tissue to check for signs of cancer or other abnormalities.

Odynophagia Causes:

There are several medical conditions that can lead to odynophagia. These include:

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition that causes stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. This leads to inflammation that causes difficulty in swallowing.

Trauma to the head or neck may cause swelling of the throat that would block food and liquids from passing.

Cancer of the mouth, throat or windpipe can also lead to odynophagia.

Injury to the back of the mouth can also cause this condition.

Odynophagia Treatment:

Treatment for this condition will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. For example, following treatment for GERD may resolve odynophagia. Treatment for traumatic injury may also be required. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove excess tissue from the throat or esophagus or repair a tear in the esophagus lining.

Odynophagia Prevention:

While there are no preventative measures for this condition, treatment of the underlying causes may help to prevent further complications that can be caused by this condition.

Sources & references used in this article:

A rare cause of odynophagia and dysphagia: oesophageal lichen planus by N Antaki, D Abboud – Arab Journal of Gastroenterology, 2013 – Elsevier

Dysphagia, Odynophagia, Hoarseness in Elderly Man by JM Carter, D Cai, BA Moore – enttoday.org

Odynophagia Flags Possibility of Lodged Food, Perforation by RM Aronberg, SR Punekar, SI Adam – 2015 – pdfs.semanticscholar.org

A 36-year-old man with odynophagia by KM Ban, LD Sanchez, K Bramwell, JC Sakles… – Internal and emergency …, 2007 – Springer