Swallowing Disorders

Swallowing disorders, or dysphagia, are characterized by difficulty swallowing, and may be accompanied by pain, coughing or gagging, choking, drooling, regurgitation, heartburn, and weight loss. A number of conditions can cause swallowing difficulties, including nervous system and immune system disorders, esophageal spasm, scleroderma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and other blockages of the throat or esophagus.

In addition to a physical exam, your doctor will order tests to determine what is causing your swallowing trouble. These may include barium X-rays, endoscopy, manometry, or a dynamic swallowing study.

Making a change to your dietary habits – eating smaller, more frequent meals; eating more slowly; trying foods with different textures; and avoiding alcohol and caffeine – are lifestyle remedies that may work. Other treatments include swallowing exercises, esophageal dilation, medications, and surgery. Severe cases may require liquid diets or intravenous feeding tubes.