Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology
Dysphagia Frequently Asked Questions
What Causes Dysphagia?
The causes of swallowing problems (dysphagia) vary widely. For instance, lack of coordination of the esophageal muscular contractions can make swallowing difficult or impossible. Swallowing can also be uncomfortable for a person with chronic heartburn, where the esophagus is damaged by excessive reflux of acid-containing stomach contents. Other serious medical causes of dysphagia include tumors and central nervous system disorders, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.
Some other common causes of dysphagia are:
- Scar tissue or narrowing in the esophagus
- Pouches (diverticula) that protrude through the lining of the throat and esophagus
- Disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system
- Radiation or operative injury
- Drug-induced injury
How Do I Know if I Have a Swallowing Disorder?
For some people, symptoms of dysphagia are relatively mild. Perhaps it takes longer to eat or swallow, or there is have difficulty getting the food down without drinking large quantities of liquids. In other cases, symptoms have become so severe that the person has difficulty ingesting even liquids.
Most people with dysphagia experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Swallow hesitation or inability to swallow
- Food sticking in the throat
- Swallowed food backs up into nose
- Chest discomfort when swallowing
- Choking with swallowing
- Frequent, repetitive swallowing
- Hiccups frequently after swallowing
- Frequent throat clearing
- "Gargly" voice after eating
- Hoarse voice or recurrent sore throat
- Coughing during or after swallowing
- Necessity to "wash down" solid foods
- Weight loss because of swallowing difficulty
- Recurrent episodes or pneumonia
- Regurgitation of food
How is the Problem Diagnosed and Treated?
A range of diagnostic procedures are available at the Dysphagia Institute to help pinpoint the cause of swallowing difficulties. The tests ordered by the Dysphagia Institute physician will depend on the specific problems the patient is having and on the results of the comprehensive interview and examination. Likewise, treatment is individualized to the patient´s needs.
How to Make an Appointment
Patients are seen in the MCW Dysphagia Clinic at the request of their physician or surgeon. The Clinic needs to receive the referral request, as well as copies of pertinent medical records and x-rays before the scheduled appointment date. Requests for consultation or referral can be made at the telephone numbers below.
For an appointment, please call: 414-955-6633