Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is difficulty swallowing. It includes problems with swallowing, drinking, chewing or food going down the wrong way.

What are the symptoms of dysphagia?

Some of the common symptoms of dysphagia include:

  • frequent choking on food,
  • pain when swallowing food,
  • regular heart burn,
  • persistent drooling of saliva,
  • shortness of breath when eating or drinking,
  • needing to cough while eating or drinking, and
  • a sensation of food being stuck in the throat or chest.

Some people will compensate for their difficulty swallowing by only eating certain foods. The biggest concern is aspiration, where food or drink will go down the airway instead of into the stomach.

What causes dysphagia?

Dysphagia can be caused by issues such as reflux, conditions of the nervous system or muscle or structural problems.

How is dysphagia diagnosed?

After taking a medical history, your doctor may also undertake a barium swallow, endoscopy, muscle testing or a CT or MRI scan. By testing early for the cause, it can rule out any serious issues such as oesophageal cancer.

What treatment options are available?

Treatment will depend on the cause of your difficulty swallowing. It may include:

  • changing what you eat (or the texture),
  • surgery to widen the oesophagus,
  • re-training your muscles to work better, or
  • taking medication to improve your reflux or relax your oesophagus.

Find out more about dysphagia

To find out more about dysphagia talk to one of our gastroenterologists today.