Difficulty swallowing

Dysphagia is the medical term for “difficulty swallowing”. This difficulty can be food not going down easily, pain when swallowing, coughing or gagging while swallowing, feeling as if the food is sticking in the throat or chest, etc. Any kind of difficulty swallowing needs immediate evaluation as it could be a sign of more serious problem.

What are the causes of dysphagia?

There are number of reasons why you can have difficulty swallowing. Based on your symptoms, duration, age and other associated symptoms, Dr.Kethu will determine the best diagnostic approach.

Some of the common causes of dysphagia based on your symptoms are as follows-

  • Severe acid reflux causing inflammation and swelling of the esophagus
  • Esophageal stricture or narrowing due to acid reflux or due to radiation treatment
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis (inflammation of the lining of the esophagus due to allergy)
  • Cancer of the esophagus
  • Esophageal rings
  • Infection such as yeast or herpes
  • Achalasia (motility disorder of the esophagus where the sphincter (valve) between the esophagus and stomach is too tight and does not relax)
  • Medication side effect. For example, some medications such as osteoporosis medication or potassium pills can cause in damage to the lining of the esophagus causing dysphagia.
  • Dryness of the mouth or throat due to medications
  • Stroke or other neurological conditions that can make your muscles in the throat too weak to initiate a swallow.

How do you diagnose the cause of dysphagia?

Upper endoscopy (EGD) is one of the most common tests performed by Dr.Kethu to evaluate dysphagia. Sometimes a barium swallow is ordered which is in x-ray test where x-rays of your esophagus are taken after you drink barium. Occasionally you may need a high-resolution manometry, test to check the functioning (motility) of the esophagus.

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