A GI doctor tells why you may feel that pills are stuck in your throat when you didn’t even swallow any.

Ever have that sensation that you can only describe as, “It feels like a few pills are stuck in my throat, but I didn’t even swallow any pills or tablets or anything like that today—not even yesterday!”?

“The sensation of something being stuck in your throat, when nothing is actually there, and you haven’t swallowed something recently is called the globus sensation,” says Jay Desai, MD.

Dr. Desai specializes in colon cancer screening, upper endoscopy and consultative gastroenterology at the New York Gastroenterology Associates.

“The cause of this sensation is poorly understood, but could be the sign of an underlying disease, such as acid reflux disease, a motor disease of the muscles of the esophagus, or a post-nasal drip.”

If you have a motor (motility) disease of the esophageal muscles, you’ll also experience difficulty passing food through the esophagus.

This article strictly relates to the feeling that something like a pill is stuck in your throat—and you do not have any other associated symptoms such as trouble swallowing or difficulty with food going down the esophagus.

Dr. Desai continues, “The typical way of treating this [globus] is first with an antacid medication or anti-histamine, and if the symptom doesn’t improve, using a camera to look in the esophagus.”

This “pill stuck” feeling in your throat can also be caused by anxiety.

There was the case of a middle-aged man who had so much health anxiety that one day, upon reading about symptoms of laryngeal cancer, he began feeling a lump in his throat.

There was the case of a middle-aged woman (these fears can also strike younger adults) who thought she tasted blood one morning every time she swallowed.

So she kept swallowing at a more frequent rate to “test” to see if the taste of what she thought was blood was still there.

All day long she was swallowing more often than usual, and because many of the swallowings were deliberate, they were tense rather than relaxed.

As the day wore on she developed globus—a distinct feeling of a little food stuck in the throat.

If you have the feeling of a pill (or food) stuck in your throat, even if it comes only when you swallow, you may also want to re-evaluate your recent anxiety levels.

Anxiety can unconsciously (or consciously, as in the above case) affect how you swallow.

dr. desai

Board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology, Dr. Desai is available for same-day appointments and provides a wide range of GI services including for bacterial overgrowth, constipation, acid reflux and GERD, IBS, incontinence, small bowel disease. Twitter handle: @NYGADocs
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/Josep Suria