(Difficulty Swallowing [Esophagus])
Esophageal dysphagia is a problem that happens with swallowing. It feels like food is stuck in the food pipe (esophagus). The esophagus is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach.
Treatment can improve swallowing.
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Esophageal dysphagia is caused by:
Things that raise the risk of esophageal dysphagia are:
Symptoms of esophageal dysphagia are:
- Problems or pain with swallowing
- A feeling of food being stuck
- Food comes back up
- Drooling, coughing, choking
- Hoarse voice
- Problems getting enough fluids or nutrition
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will run tests to find the cause of swallowing problems. Tests may include:
Treatment depends on the cause. Options may be
- Esophageal dilation —to make the food pipe wider
- Surgery—to treat GERD or remove something that is blocking the food pipe
Diet changes such as:
- Not eating foods that cause problems
- Eating softer or pureed foods
- Using a feeding tube if needed
- Speech therapy—to learn how to swallow without choking
- Medicines—to treat specific causes, relax muscles, or reduce acid
There are no known guidelines to prevent esophageal dysphagia.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Dysphagia Research Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologist
Chilukuri P, Odufalu F, et al. Dysphagia. Mo Med. 2018;115(3):206-210.
Dysphagia. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/d/dyphagia.html. Accessed July 30, 2021.
Dysphagia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/esophageal-dysphagia. Accessed July 30, 2021.
Dysphagia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/esophageal-and-swallowing-disorders/dysphagia. Accessed July 30, 2021.
Swallowing disorders in adults. American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/Swallowing-Disorders-in-Adults. Accessed July 30, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 7/30/2021