Difficulty swallowing is also called dysphagia. It is usually a sign of a problem with your throat or esophagus —the muscular tube that moves food and liquids from the back of your mouth to your stomach. Although dysphagia can happen to anyone, it is most common in older adults, babies, and people who have problems of the brain or nervous system.
There are many different problems that can prevent the throat or esophagus from working properly. Some of these are minor, and others are more serious.
If you have a hard time swallowing once or twice, you probably do not have a medical problem. But if you have trouble swallowing on a regular basis, you may have a more serious problem that needs treatment.
What causes dysphagia?
Normally, the muscles in your throat and esophagus squeeze, or contract, to move food and liquids from your mouth to your stomach without problems. Sometimes, though, food and liquids have trouble getting to your stomach. There are two types of problems that can make it hard for food and liquids to travel down your esophagus:
1 The muscles and nerves that help move food through the throat and esophagus are not working right.
2 Something is blocking your throat or esophagus.
What are the symptoms?
- Dysphagia can come and go, be mild or severe, or get worse over time. If you have dysphagia, you may:
- Have problems getting food or liquids to go down on the first try.
- Gag, choke, or cough when you swallow.
- Have food or liquids come back up through your throat, mouth, or nose after you swallow.
- Feel like foods or liquids are stuck in some part of your throat or chest.
- Have pain when you swallow.
- Have pain or pressure in your chest or have heartburn.
- Lose weight because you are not getting enough food or liquid.
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