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What is Dysphagia ?

Dysphagia is difficulty in swallowing either liquid or solid. More efforts and time required to move food from your mouth to your stomach. Dysphagia may or may not be associated with pain.


When there is disturbance in swallowing process dysphagia occurs. Following are causes of dysphagia:

  • Esophagus (food pipe) - stricture (narrowing of the esophagus), or cancer.
  • Weakness / dysfunction of muscles of mouth, throat or esophagus
  • Nerve or brain disease (such as stroke) that leads to dysfunction (weakness / incoordination) of muscle of mouth, tongue, or throat
  • Impacted foreign bodies (e.g. large piece of meat) or any another object that become lodged in esophagus
  • In children, dysphagia can be caused by prematurity, nervous system disease; birth defects (e.g. cleft lip or cleft palate)
  • Symptoms

  • Difficulty while swallowing
  • Choking sensation while swallowing
  • Vomiting after drinking or eating
  • Cough while swallowing
  • Fatigue and unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent complaint of heartburn.

  • Infants and children may have the following additional symptoms:

  • Lack of attention during feeding / eating
  • Difficulty in breast feeding
  • Food or liquid coming out from the mouth
  • Repeated swallowing efforts
  • Gagging or coughing during feedings
  • Difficulty in coordinating breathing with feeding
  • Increased respiratory infections episodes
  • Diagnosis

    Diagnosis of cause of dysphagia requires detailed history, physical examination and variety of tests. These tests include an upper GI endoscopy (EGD) with or without biopsy, Barium swallow or an esophageal muscle function test (manometry).


    Treatment options for dysphagia depends on the particular cause

  • Esophagus dilation: In this procedure esophagus (food pipe) is widen to facilitate swallowing. It is done when dysphagia is caused by benign stricture or Achalasia cardia.
  • Medications: Medications are prescribed to reduced lower esophageal sphincter pressure / relieve esophageal muscle spasm thus helps in swallowing, its helpful in Esophageal motility disorders
  • Medical Help

    Consult your doctor if you are experiencing difficulty with swallowing. Visit the nearest emergency department if impacted food / foreign body cause an inability to swallow or difficulty in breathing.

    A Centre for Comprehensive GI Care