Dysphagia is a problem that happens when you swallow. It’s hard to get food down the tube that goes from the mouth to the stomach.
Esophagus and Stomach
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Esophageal dysphagia is caused by damage or disease of the throat. :
Factors that increase the risk of esophageal dysphagia include:
Common symptoms include:
- Having a hard time when you swallow
- A feeling of food being stuck
- Pain when you swallow
- Drooling, coughing, choking
- Hoarse voice
- Problems getting enough fluids or nutrition
You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will run tests to find out what is causing swallowing problems. Tests may include:
- A test to look for problems while you swallow
upper GI endoscopy—a scope is used to view throat from back of mouth to the stomach
barium swallow—x-ray that uses a special dye to highlight throat
- Tests on the muscles of the esophagus
Treatment depends on the cause. You may need:
- Esophageal dilation
—making the esophagus wider where it narrows
- Surgery—to treat GERD or take out something that is blocking the path
Dietary changes such as:
- Not eating foods that cause problems
- Eating softer or pureed foods
- Using a feeding tube if needed
- Speech therapy—this will teach you to swallow without choking
- Medicines—to treat specific causes, relax muscles, or reduce acid
There are not steps to prevent esophageal dysphagia.
Dysphagia. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/d/dyphagia.html. Accessed August 14, 2018.
Dysphagia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T906517/Dysphagia. Updated March 21, 2017. August 14, 2018.
Dysphagia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/esophageal-and-swallowing-disorders/dysphagia. Updated April 2018. Accessed August 14, 2018.
Swallowing disorders in adults. American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/Swallowing-Disorders-in-Adults. Accessed August 14, 2018.
Last reviewed February 2019 by Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 2/12/2019