Dysphagia, difficulty swallowing, is the disruption of the swallowing process which interferes with a person’s ability to eat. Dysphagia is not a disease itself but is a possible sign of a disease.
Difficulty swallowing may present as coughing or choking with swallowing, food sticking in the throat or upper chest or a feeling of food getting stuck.
There are many possible causes of dysphagia, many dependent on the age of the patient. In babies, dysphagia can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux, muscular issues such as cerebral palsy and developmental abnormalities. In older children, large tonsils can commonly cause dysphagia of sorts.
In adults, it is important to differentiate the sensation of a swallowing issue from a true issue with food not going down. In the former where there is the sensation of difficulty swallowing, common causes may be dry mucous membranes, acid reflux and side effects from medications and even stress.
True dysphagia, in which there is an actual issue with being unable to swallow food, can be a sign of serious illnesses in adults. Neurological and muscular issues, inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus, tumors in the throat and esophagus, among other problems, can all cause difficulty swallowing.
At Advanced Specialty Care, our ENT specialists have a comprehensive approach to evaluating swallowing disorders which include thoroughly reviewing a patient’s medical history, performing an exam and often carrying out tests such as a swallowing x‐ray or an esophagoscopy. ENT appointments are available in our Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and Ridgefield, CT offices.