Difficulty Swallowing

Difficulty swallowing or dysphagia is most often described as a sensation that foods are getting stuck in the chest and is caused by several abnormalities such as GERD, esophageal narrowing (strictures, rings or webs) or muscle problems such as spasm or a condition known as achalasia.

Esophagus

Stomach

Intestine

What are some associated symptoms?

  • Foods get stuck in the chest (especially dry foods, breads and meats)
  • Difficulty getting foods down
  • Having the need to drink a lot of water after meals
  • Difficulty burping
  • Chest pain

How is this condition diagnosed?

The cause of difficulty swallowing can be made based on the symptoms which you report to your health care provider, medication trial, or if an abnormality is seen during an evaluation of the esophagus by upper endoscopy. Sometimes a special test called an esophageal manometry is needed, which measures esophageal muscle contractions and coordination. It is a test which is performed by placing a thin catheter into the esophagus by way of the nostrils. This catheter has pressure sensors which test how well the esophageal muscles work to move liquids from the esophagus into the stomach. This test takes approximately 20 minutes.

How is difficulty swallowing treated?

Treatment is variable and depends on the reason for the swallowing abnormality