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Potential Causes of Dysphagia

Updated on March 28, 2017

When you are young and healthy, you are hardly concerned about swallowing foods the wrong way. We can eat all we can without even thinking twice if it is going to pass through the wrong way.

Well, that human, the issue of wrong swallowing of foods which is also known as "dysphagia" becomes a problem especially for adults that are over the age of 60.

The term "dysphagia" simply refers to difficulty or inability to swallow. This condition is not a disease but a disruption of a normal process that needs to be treated right away. Usually, a patient suffering from dysphagia in most cases, will have a delayed, incomplete or absent swallowing response.

Sometimes, dysphagia can cause some serious consequences on older person’s nutritional status. Some of these consequences include unintended weight loss, development of malnutrition, and even dehydration.

Potential Causes of Dysphagia

Some of the factors that can lead to this condition known as dysphagia include:

  • Obstruction
  • Nerve and muscle problems
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Radiation
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Issues such as medications, trauma, poor dentition and mouth care.

The cause of dysphagia is determined from the nature of the symptoms. When a difficult swallowing leads to cough, nasal regurgitation or choking, the likely cause of this dysphagia is an oral or pharyngeal problem.

The cause of dysphagia is most likely to be due to an esophageal problem if swallowing results to the sensation of food sticking in the chest.


Some of the symptoms of dysphagia include:

  • Coughing, choking, gagging, weak cough, frequent throat clearing or hoarse voice
  • Drooling
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Recurrent heartburn
  • Inability to control saliva in the mouth
  • Recurrent pneumonia
  • Poor control of head, mouth or tongue

How to Diagnosed Dysphagia?

When you have difficulty swallowing, you will need to visit a doctor who will try to determine where the problem lies.

The doctor will inquire about the symptoms from the patient and how long the patient has been having the symptoms. Others ways to diagnose Dysphagia include:

Swallow Study

This is a test administered by a speech therapist by using various foods and liquid to determine which one cause the difficulty in swallowing.

Barium Swallow Test

The patient is asked to swallow a barium-containing liquid. The doctor then uses an X-ray to understand the muscular activity in the patients' esophagus.


In this process, the doctor makes use of sophisticated camera to have a detailed look and understanding of patient’s esophagus.


If endoscopy yields normal results, the doctor will use this method known as "manometry" to measure the pressure changes produced by contractions of the muscular portions of the esophagus.

How Can Dysphagia be Treated?

If your doctor determines that you have dysphagia after several tests, he will prescribe different treatment methods. Some of the most common treatment for dysphagia includes:

1. Swallowing Therapy

This treatment is administered by a speech and language therapist. It involves the patient learning new ways of swallowing foods and liquids properly. Additionally, the patient will be taught some exercises to improve the muscles that are used in swallowing.

2. Diet

A nutritionist will teach the patient some foods and liquids that are easier to swallow and how to prepare well-balanced diets.

3. Tube Feeding

If the patient's case is severe or he is at the risk of malnutrition, pneumonia, or dehydration, he may be fed through a nasal tube known as nasogastric tube or percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy.

4. Dilation

A small balloon may be inserted into the patient's esophagus and then inflated in situations where the esophagus needs to be widened.

5. Botulinum toxin

This method is used when the muscles in the esophagus have become stiff.


Dysphagia can be treated. This condition affects mostly elderly person. If you suspect that you might be suffering from this disease, quickly find a doctor to discuss your problem and seek for cure right away.


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    • Almrjd profile imageAUTHOR


      22 months ago

      Yes, thank you

    • just helen profile image

      just helen 

      22 months ago from Dartmoor UK

      Esophageal cancer is another cause and potentially life threatening...


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