Dysphagia is difficulty or discomfort with swallowing. It includes problems getting food from the mouth into the esophagus, down the esophagus and into the stomach. It is important to seek immediate medical attention for any difficulty with swallowing solids or liquids.
Difficulty getting food out of the mouth into the esophagus most commonly occurs from neurological conditions, including strokes. Moving food through the esophagus requires sequential squeezing to push food toward the stomach. When this is weak, fails completely or even squeezes too strongly problems can occur. A variety of systemic nerve and muscle disorders can contribute to this; scleroderma, multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Several conditions that cause a narrowing in the esophagus can lead to problems swallowing:
Your physician will determine what tests needs to be done to ascertain a cause for the dysphagia based on your specific symptoms and clinical condition. Some of these tests include:
Treatment can involve medications, stretching the esophagus at the time of endoscopy or surgery. Dysphagia is often intermittent but can become so bad that food can get completely stuck and require emergency removal.