The medical name for trouble swallowing is dysphagia. This is when patients have to put more effort and time into consuming their food.

Contrary to popular belief, dysphagia is not a medical condition in itself, but a gastrointestinal (GI) symptom that can affect anyone at any age and could be caused by a wide range of GI conditions.

While it isn’t always a cause for concern, it may affect a person’s dietary habits and lead to other complications, such as weight loss and malnutrition.

Persistent difficulty swallowing could signal an underlying medical condition.

What causes trouble swallowing?

Usually, dysphagia can be categorised into two types: oesophageal dysphagia and oropharyngeal dysphagia.

Oesophageal dysphagia

Oesophageal dysphagia

This is when patients feel like the food they eat is sticking to their throats and could be caused by conditions like:

This happens when the lower oesophageal sphincter muscle—which is a ring of muscles between the oesophagus and the stomach—fails to open completely.

Oesophageal tumours
Tumours growing in the oesophagus may cause it to become narrow, making it difficult for food to pass through it and into the stomach.

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease(GORD)
GORD happens when the lower oesophageal sphincter muscle fails to close properly, allowing stomach acids to move into the oesophagus.

Oropharyngeal dysphagia

In this case, dysphagia may be caused by sensory changes and impaired muscle function, which may be caused by:

Neurological disorders
Disorders such as muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS) may make it hard to swallow food.

Nerve damage
Neurological damage caused by a spinal cord or brain injury may make it hard for the patient to swallow their food.

Oropharyngeal dysphagia

Can dysphagia cause complications?

Difficulty swallowing may cause the following complications:

  • Malnutrition

  • Dehydration

  • Weight loss

  • Choking on food

  • Aspiration pneumonia

Speak to a gastroenterologist for assistance

Dr Suhirdan Vivekanandarajah is a gastroenterologist and a hepatologist based in Sydney, Australia who specialises in diagnosing and treating a variety of different gastrointestinal conditions.

If you’re having trouble swallowing food, contact Dr Vivekanandarajah for a diagnosis and to receive the support you need to manage your symptoms.

Consult Dr Suhirdan at these locations 

St Vincent's Clinic

Meet Dr Suhirdan Vivekanandarajah

Interventional Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist

Bsc (Med) | M.B.B.S. (Hons) | FRACP


Are older people more likely to get dysphagia?

How long does it take for dysphagia to go away?

Is dysphagia painful?

Get in touch for more support, treatment and information on gastrointestinal health.

Dr Suhirdan's services are only available to patients in Australia.

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