(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, or 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
- Managing symptoms with eating habits, such as:
- Chewing food well
- Staying upright while eating
- Not hurrying during meals
- Not eating later at night
- Diet changes such as:
- Not eating foods that cause problems
- Eating softer or pureed foods
- Using a feeding tube if needed
- Esophageal dilation—to make the food pipe wider
- Surgery—to treat GERD or remove something that is blocking the food pipe
- 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.
- 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.
- Dysphagia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/esophageal-dysphagia.
- Dysphagia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/esophageal-and-swallowing-disorders/dysphagia.
- Swallowing disorders in adults. American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/Swallowing-Disorders-in-Adults.
- Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
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