Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia)

If you have trouble swallowing, Rush specialists will get to the root of the problem to treat your dysphagia.

If you have trouble swallowing, Rush specialists will get to the root of the problem to treat your dysphagia.

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing food, liquid or saliva.

Many different nerves and muscles are involved in the process of chewing food and transferring it from your mouth to your stomach. Any problem that affects this process can result in dysphagia.

Causes of Dysphagia

The following neurological conditions can cause dysphagia by harming the nerves that control chewing and swallowing:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or chronic acid reflux
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke
  • Tardive dyskinesia
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Vocal cord paralysis

Dysphagia is most common in older adults, though people of any age can develop it. 

Dysphagia Treatment at Rush

Some people with dysphagia don’t realize their symptoms are the result of swallowing problems. Call your primary care doctor if you have any of the following symptoms that don't go away:

  • Coughing, hiccupping or choking during or after eating
  • A gurgling feeling in the back of the throat after eating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain in your chest after or during eating
  • A feeling that your food is stuck in your throat or behind your breastbone

Dysphagia Providers at Rush

Learn more about dysphagia providers at Rush.

Meet our dysphagia providers
stethoscope Meet our dysphagia providers

Rush Excellence in Dysphagia

  • Getting to the root of the problem: If your doctor recommends further evaluation and testing, Rush has many specialists who can help you get to the root cause of your trouble swallowing. Testing for dysphagia may involve a flexible fiberoptic examination of swallowing, or FEES, in which a thin, flexible camera is used to observe your larynx during swallowing.
  • Expertise in dysphagia: Otolaryngologists work alongside Rush's speech-language pathologists to help you manage dysphagia and develop techniques for dealing with your swallowing problems. Treatment options may include swallow therapy or surgical interventions such as the use of botox, dietary modifications or esophageal management of reflux.
  • Nationally recognized expertise: Rush University Medical Center's gastroenterology, ear, nose and throat, and neurology and neurosurgery programs are ranked among the nation's best by U.S. News & World Report.