Difficulty in swallowing, or dysphagia, is common among all age groups, especially the elderly. The term dysphagia refers to the feeling of difficulty passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach.
Difficulty swallowing may be due to simple causes such as poor teeth, ill-fitting dentures, or a common “cold”. One of the most common causes of dysphagia is gastroesophageal reflux, which occurs when stomach acid moves up the esophagus to the pharynx, causing inflammation or swelling. Difficulties in swallowing rarely represent a more serious disease, such as a tumor or a progressive neurological disorder.
Treatment is tailored to the particular cause of the swallowing disorder. Drugs that reduce stomach acid production may reduce symptoms. Many swallowing disorders may be helped by swallowing therapy. If a narrowing or stricture exists, the area may need to be stretched or dilated. A swallow study may be helpful in determining the cause of difficulty and directing therapy. Your doctor may recommend upper endoscopy, which allows the throat and esophagus to be examined.