Dysphagia; Impaired swallowing
Difficulty with swallowing is the sensation that food is stuck in the throat, or from the neck down to just above the abdomen behind the breastbone (sternum).
Swallowing is a complex act that involves the mouth, throat area, and esophagus (the muscular tube that moves food to the stomach). Many nerves and muscles control how these body parts work. Part of the act of swallowing is under voluntary control, which means you are aware of controlling the action. However, much of swallowing is involuntary.
Problems at any point -- from chewing food and moving it into the back of the mouth to transporting food down the esophagus into the stomach -- can result in difficulty swallowing.
Chest pain, the feeling of food stuck in the throat, or heaviness or pressure in the neck or upper or lower chest when eating are frequently the result of swallowing difficulties.
There are many different causes of swallowing difficulty, including:
Eat slowly, and chew food thoroughly. If a person suddenly shows signs of choking and difficulty breathing, food could be blocking the main airway (trachea). The Heimlich maneuver should be performed immediately.
You may have an easier time swallowing liquids or pureed foods than solids. Avoid very cold or very hot foods if you notice that they worsen the problem.
Call your doctor right away if:
Call your health care provider if the problem continues, even if the symptoms come and go.
Tell your doctor about any other symptoms you may have including:
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
The following tests may be done:
Orlando RC. Diseases of the esophagus. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 140.
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