What is Dysphagia? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

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Difficulty swallowing, which also means Dysphagia is a medical condition where it takes more time as well as effort in order for the food or liquid to move from your mouth to your stomach. The situation which is also associated with pain is a situation where swallowing food can be really impossible. Usually dysphagia can almost occur at mostly any age. It is very common in older adults. Dysphagia usually is temporary and can mostly go away on its own. It is found that especially for some people who are affected by the condition, difficulty swallowing may usually be restricted to food only, however while on others it may also lead to difficulty with liquids. In some cases, some people are unable to swallow altogether. Dysphagia thus makes the eating routine of the person challenging. Which also means the affected individual will face the difficulty taking in sufficient calories as well as nutrients. Read More

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What is Dysphagia? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Types of Dysphagia:

Dysphagia generally falls into one of these different categories:

Esophageal Dysphagia

Esophageal dysphagia is a feeling where you feel that something is kind of stuck in your throat. Some of the causes of this medical condition include:

  • Spasms in the lower esophagus
  • Feeling of tightness in the lower esophagus
  • Narrowing of esophagus due to the growths or by scarring
  • Foreign objects stuck in throat
  • Narrowing of the esophagus due to GERD
  • Scar tissue in the esophagus due to post-radiation treatment

Oropharyngeal Dysphagia:

Oropharyngeal Dysphagia is in fact caused due to disorders of nerves as well as muscles in the throat. This type of disorder usually weakens the muscles thus making it very difficult for the person to eat or swallow without gagging. Few of the causes of this type of dysphagia include:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Post-polio syndrome
  • Damage of nerve due to radiation therapy or surgery
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Head and neck cancer

Pharyngeal Dysphagia (Pharyngoesophageal Dysphagia):

Few of the issues caused in the throat by pharyngeal dysphagia are often due to neurological problems which affect the nerves like Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or else by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Dysphagia:

The diagnosis and treatment procedures for dysphagia are as follows:

Prior to the treatment:

  • Your doctor may advise you to take normal physical examination
  • Abnormalities in the oral cavity are also checked for swelling
  • Your doctor may also advise you to take the following tests such as cineradiography, upper endoscopy, manometry, impedance and pH test and Barium X-ray

During the treatment:

  • Treatment for oropharyngeal dysphagia usually include certain learning exercises in order to help coordinate the swallowing muscles as well as restimulate the nerves
  • Special swallowing techniques are also taught in order to help compensate for oropharyngeal dysphagia
  • Your doctor might use a special balloon that is attached to expand the width of the esophagus for a tight esophageal dysphagia
  • Esophageal tumor might require surgery and medications to clear out the path of esophagus
  • Laparoscopic Heller Myotomy, Peroral Endoscopic Myotomy (POEM), Esophageal dilation and stent placement of few of the surgical treatment procedures that your doctor suggests for dysphagia

Prognosis, Post-treatment and Recovery:

  • Post treatment medications will be prescribed either in a liquid form or will be advised to crush pills and have it
  • Normal round of checkups will be recommended by your doctor if you have underwent a surgical procedure
  • Recovery usually takes a month post surgery for you to recover and get back to normal life in case of severe dysphagia

Dysphagia Complications:

Few of the causes that arises due to difficulty swallowing are:

Malnutrition, weight loss and dehydration: The medical condition can make it difficult for the person to take in adequate nourishment and also fluids

Aspiration pneumonia: Food or liquid that is entering your airway especially when you try to swallow can actually cause aspiration pneumonia, since the food can introduce bacteria to the lungs

Choking: Usually when the food gets stuck in your throat, choking can normally occur. However, if food completely blocks your airway, death can occur.

Dysphagia Risk Factors:

Few of the following risk factors for dysphagia are as follows:

Aging: Aging, usual wear and tear on the esophagus and apart from that greater risk of certain conditions like stroke, Parkinson’s disease as well as adults who are aged are usually at higher risk in having difficulties in swallowing. However, dysphagia isn’t normally considered a usual sign of aging.

Health conditions: People with particular neurological condition or by nervous system disorders are generally more prone to experience difficulty swallowing food.


Some of the symptoms that is associated with dysphagia are as follows:

  • Pain while swallowing food (odynophagia)
  • Trouble swallowing food
  • Sensation of food stuck in throat for days (sternum)
  • Drooling
  • Being very hoarse
  • Regurgitation
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing saliva
  • Having acid in stomach back up into your throat
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Coughing when swallowing
  • Gagging when swallowing


Some of the common dysphagia causes are as follows:

  • Acid reflux and GERD
  • Heartburn
  • Epiglottitis
  • Goiter
  • Esophagitis
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Stomach cancer or gastric adenocarcinoma
  • Herpes esophagitis
  • Recurrent herpes simplex labialis
  • Thyroid nodule
  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Snake bites


1. What is the dysphagia diet plan?

Pureed breads, smooth puddings and well-moistened mashed potatoes are the best diet for dysphagia.

2. What are dysphagia home treatment swallowing exercises?

Shaker Exercise, Hyoid Lift Maneuver and Supraglottic Swallow are best dysphagia home treatment swallowing exercises.

3. What is dysphagia lusoria?

Dysphagia lusoria is an abnormal medical condition which is characterized by the difficulty in swallowing that is caused by an aberrant subclavian artery in the right.

4. What is the difference between odynophagia vs dysphagia?

Dysphagia is generally the abnormal transit of solids or by the liquids, while on the other hand, odynophagia is pain that is caused during swallowing.

5. Why does it feel like something is stuck in my throat?

The muscle spasms caused due to GERD can make you feel like something is stuck in my throat.

6. What are aspiration symptoms?

Feels like something is stuck in my throat and chest, throat hurts when swallowing and difficulty swallowing saliva.