Globus pharyngeus, also called globus sensation or globus, is the feeling of having something stuck in the throat. Globus may be a symptom of certain conditions.

According to a 2017 article in the journal Frontline Gastroenterology, healthcare professionals once considered globus to be a mostly psychological condition. However, researchers now understand that it can be a symptom of both psychological and physical conditions.

Although globus is not painful, it can be uncomfortable and affect a person’s quality of life.

This article discusses what a globus sensation is, the potential causes, and how to treat it. The article also looks at what else might be causing the sensation and when to contact a doctor.

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Globus can cause a person to feel as if there is a persistent lump in the throat despite there being no presence of a physical blockage.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), people may describe the sensation as like something constricting their throat.

However, it is extremely common and is not a cause for concern.

Globus can also cause a person to experience:

  • itching in their throat
  • swelling of the throat
  • persistent clearing of the throat
  • hoarseness
  • chronic cough
  • catarrh, which is a build-up of mucus in the nose, throat, or sinuses

The symptoms can worsen during times of stress.

The exact cause of globus is currently unknown.

However, it can often occur as a result of stress and anxiety, particularly when people are holding back strong emotions.

An article from 2015 found that up to 96% of people with globus found that symptoms worsened in times of high emotional intensity.

In addition, another common cause is gastroesophageul reflux disease (GERD). The authors of the article state that 23–68% of people who have globus also have GERD. Symptoms of GERD, such as heartburn, can also lead to globus sensation.

Some other medical conditions that may cause globus include:

  • cricopharyngeal spasm, which is a type of muscle spasm that happens in the throat
  • hiatus hernia, which is when a part of the stomach moves up into the chest
  • sinusitis, which is inflammation of the sinuses
  • post-nasal drip, which occurs when the glands in the throat and nose continually produce mucus
  • a swollen thyroid gland, or goiter

In very rare cases, hypopharyngeal cancer may be the cause.

There are various conditions that are similar to globus. These conditions include:

Dysphagia

Dysphagia is the term used for difficulty swallowing. This can mean a person is completely unable to swallow, or they may have trouble swallowing food or liquid safely.

Symptoms of dysphagia include:

  • coughing
  • choking
  • clearing the throat
  • the sensation that food is stuck in the throat or chest
  • weight loss
  • preference for liquid and semisolid food

Learn more about dysphagia here.

Odynophagia

Odynophagia is when a person experiences pain when swallowing.

Odynophagia usually occurs as a result of infection or inflammation of the esophagus or the oropharynx, which is part of the throat directly behind the mouth.

Learn more about odynophagia here.

Achalasia

Achalasia is a rare condition that causes a person to have difficulty swallowing. When a person has achalasia, their esophagus has trouble passing food into their stomach. This means that food can become trapped in the esophagus, causing:

  • dysphagia
  • mild chest pain
  • intense pain
  • regurgitation
  • coughing during the night
  • significant weight loss

Learn more about esophageal achalasia here.

Globus is a common medical symptom, accounting for around 4% of new referrals to ear, nose, and throat clinics.

Research from 2017 notes that 12.5% of otherwise healthy people in the United States have reported having globus. Additionally, globus appears to affect females more often than males for those under the age of 50. The authors state that it affects males and females equally over the age of 50.

Researchers also state that up to 75% of people who have globus may experience symptoms for years. This could be due to the difficulties experienced in diagnosing globus. If a doctor cannot establish the cause of a person’s globus, it can be hard for them to find a suitable treatment.

The feeling that there is a large mass in the throat can be frightening. However, globus is not a serious condition and does not pose any long-term health consequences.

A person who is concerned about globus may find it beneficial to talk with a healthcare professional.

People should contact a doctor if they experience globus alongside the following symptoms:

  • neck or throat pain
  • bleeding from the mouth or throat
  • weight loss
  • pain or difficulty swallowing
  • muscle weakness
  • a physical mass in the throat or mouth
  • a progressive worsening of symptoms

As there is no known cause of globus, there are no specific treatments available for it. When another medical condition causes globus, treating that condition may cure it.

The NHS suggests that a person perform the following to help ease the sensation and relax the throat muscles:

  1. Swallow when the throat feels uncomfortable, with or without water.
  2. Yawn with the mouth wide open often.
  3. Move the jaw up and down and open the mouth at least two fingers wide.

A person can also try the following steps a few times a day:

  1. Sitting or standing, a person should shrug the shoulders up to the ears, hold the position, release, and repeat.
  2. Turn the head to the left, slowly and gently. Bring the head to the center and lower the chin to the chest. Raise the head, turn it to the right, and then bring it back to the center. A person can repeat this four times.
  3. Drop the head to the chest, and keep the mouth open. Gently roll the head in a circle and repeat in the other direction.

People should also:

  • take antacids if they experience regular acid indigestion
  • avoid clearing the throat as this can aggravate it further, and drink some water instead
  • try to yawn if the desire to clear the throat is strong

A healthcare professional may recommend the following treatment options:

Proton pump inhibitors (PPI)

PPIs help to reduce the amount of stomach acid a person has. A doctor uses PPIs to treat heartburn and acid reflux conditions.

However, those with globus may require more aggressive and prolonged treatment with PPIs, which can result in negative side effects. Additionally, the researchers of a 2015 article noted that 55.6% of people with GERD and globus were resistant to treatment with PPIs.

A healthcare professional may also prescribe other acid blockers, such as H2 blockers.

Speech therapy

Research indicates that speech therapy that includes relaxation techniques effectively treats globus.

A study from 2017 found that 72% of people who received speech therapy for globus had complete remission. However, this study had a small sample size and so further research is required.

Psychological treatments

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment for psychological conditions that can cause physical symptoms.

Antidepressants may also be beneficial. A 2021 study found that treatment with serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors can be an effective treatment option for those with mild symptoms.

Globus is the sensation of having something stuck in the throat. Although generally not serious, it can cause concern and reduce a person’s quality of life.

The exact cause is not known. However, there are certain conditions that are associated with globus. Treatment of these conditions may also alleviate globus if they cause it.

There are various conditions that are similar to globus. It differs from these conditions as it does not cause pain or difficulty swallowing.

If a person is concerned about globus, they should speak with a doctor. A person who has globus as well as serious symptoms should seek urgent medical attention.

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