Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content


Difficulty in swallowing, also known as dysphagia, is a symptom that may occur at any age. Dysphagia refers to the feeling of difficulty passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. Sometimes the problem is at the level of the mouth and/or the throat or the esophagus.


What Are The Symptoms Of Swallowing Disorders?

Symptoms may include:

  • A feeling that food or liquid is sticking in the throat or in the chest
  • Discomfort in the throat or chest
  • A sensation of a foreign body or “lump” in the throat or in the chest
  • Coughing or Choking
  • Drooling

More prolonged or more significant problems with swallowing may lead to:

  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Food or fluid in the lungs
  • Voice changes
  • Inability to handle saliva


How Are Swallowing Disorders Diagnosed?

When swallowing disorders are persistent and the cause is not apparent, your physician will discuss your history of your problem and perform a physical examination. Additional testing of the throat or the esophagus may need to be done. When the problem is suspected in the esophagus, we may perform one or more of the following: an upper endoscopy with biopsy, a motility test, or a barium swallow.


What Causes Difficulty with Swallowing?

Swallowing is a complex process involving the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Any interruption in the swallowing process or blockage in the path down to the stomach can cause difficulties. This may be due to decreased coordination of the muscles in the mouth or throat. Difficulty swallowing may also sometimes be due to a mass or a narrowing in the esophagus. Sometimes reflux disease can either cause swelling or scarring that leads to difficulty swallowing. Sometimes the esophagus does not function properly and a motility disorder such as achalasia may cause difficulty swallowing. An allergic condition called Eosinophilic Esophagitis may also cause difficulty swallowing.


How Are Swallowing Disorders Managed?

Difficulty Swallowing is a symptom of one of many different types of swallowing disorders. Each one may have a different management approach. It is important to perform a complete evaluation and make the correct diagnosis in swallowing disorders. Once the cause is determined, then management may be directed based on the specific cause.

Your physician can discuss the most appropriate workup and management for you.