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 transferring it from your mouth to your stomach, and any problem that affects this process can result in dysphagia.
Dysphagia: what you should know
- Neurological conditions such as these can cause dysphagia by harming the nerves that control chewing and swallowing:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or chronic acid reflux, is another common cause of dysphagia.
- Dysphagia is most common in older adults, though people of any age can develop it.
- Infants with cleft palate (an opening in the roof of the mouth) often have trouble swallowing.
How can I get help for dysphagia?
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
Care for dysphagia at Rush
If your doctor recommends further evaluation and testing, Rush has many specialists who can help you get to the root cause of your distress. Testing may involve flexible fiberoptic examination of swallowing, or FEES, in which a thin, flexible camera is used to observe the larynx during swallowing.
The kind of treatment you need will depend on the underlying cause of your dysphagia.
Why choose Rush for dysphagia care
- Rush has a team of speech-language pathologists who work with otorhinolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat specialists), gastroenterologists, neurologists and other specialists to help you develop techniques for dealing with your swallowing problems.
- Rush’s neurology and neurosurgery program is consistently ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report.