Dysphagia is the medical term for “trouble swallowing.” Sometimes, dysphagia happens if you eat too fast or don’t chew your food well enough. But if you have got dysphagia, you may have a serious medical problem that has to be treated immediately.
Dysphagia is sometimes caused by a problem in the upper part of your digestive tract. Often, the problem is within the esophagus, tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. But it may also happen because of a problem in the mouth or throat.
The symptoms include:
- Not being able to swallow
- Pain while swallowing
- Feeling like food is stuck in your throat or chest
- Coughing or gagging while swallowing
- Trouble speaking
See your doctor if you have got any of the above symptoms. Do so immediately if you are unable to swallow your own saliva and are drooling or have trouble speaking.
Yes. Your doctor will do an exam and ask about your symptoms. Another test might include:
- A barium X-ray – For this test, you drink a thick liquid called a “barium solution.” It coats the inside of your esophagus. The barium shows up on X-rays, so that the doctor can see any problems in the esophagus.
- A swallowing study – For this test, you eat different foods coated with barium. X-rays taken throughout the test show if you have got problems with the muscles in your mouth or throat. This test is additionally called a “video fluoroscopy.”
- Upper endoscopy – For this test, the doctor puts a thin, flexible tube into your mouth, down your throat, and into your esophagus. The tube (called an endoscope) has a camera and a light on it, so it allows the doctor to see inside the esophagus.
- Manometry – This test measures the pressure at different places inside your esophagus. To do this, a small tube that senses pressure is inserted through your nose, down your throat, and into your esophagus. The results of the test can tell your doctor how well the muscles that help you swallow are working.
The treatment depends on what’s causing the dysphagia.
If you have got dysphagia because of a problem in your mouth and the upper part of your throat, your doctor might refer you to a speech or swallowing specialist. This person can teach you exercises to assist you swallow, and may also suggest ways to change your diet.