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Swallowing problems

Dysphagia

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Swallowing problems

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Description

Difficulty with swallowing is the feeling that food or liquid is stuck in the throat or at any point before the food enters the stomach. This problem is also called dysphagia.

This may be caused by a brain or nerve disorder, stress or anxiety, or problems that involve the back of the tongue, the throat, and the esophagus (tube leading from the throat to the stomach).

What to Expect at Home

Symptoms of swallowing problems include:

Symptoms may be mild or severe.

Home Care

Most people with dysphagia should be checked by a health care provider if the symptoms persist or come back. But these general tips may help.

You may need someone to remind you to finish swallowing. It may also help to ask caregivers and family members not to talk to you when you are eating or drinking.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider if:

Related Information

Brain surgery
Brain aneurysm repair
Stroke
Multiple sclerosis
Parkinson disease
Oral cancer
Throat or larynx cancer
Laryngectomy
Dementia - behavior and sleep problems
Dementia - daily care
Dementia - keeping safe in the home
Brain surgery - discharge
Multiple sclerosis - discharge
Stroke - discharge
Dry mouth during cancer treatment
Mouth and neck radiation - discharge
Enteral nutrition - child - managing problems
Gastrostomy feeding tube - bolus
Jejunostomy feeding tube

References

DeVault KR. Symptoms of esophageal disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 13.

Emmett SD. Otolaryngology in the elderly. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 13.

Fager SK, Hakel M, Brady S, et al. Adult neurogenic communication and swallowing disorders. In: Cifu DX, ed. Braddom's Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 3.

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Review Date: 4/11/2020  

Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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