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Alternative namesDysphagia; Impaired swallowing
DefinitionDifficulty when swallowing is the sensation that food is stuck in the throat or upper chest. This may be felt high in the neck or lower down, behind the breastbone (sternum).
Swallowing is a complex act that involves the mouth, throat area, and esophagus (tube that transports food to the stomach). Many nerves and muscles affect the correct function of these parts. Part of the act of swallowing is under conscious (voluntary) control. However, much of swallowing is involuntary.
Problems at any point -- from chewing food and moving it into the back of the mouth, to moving the food into the stomach -- can result in difficulty swallowing.
Frequently, symptoms of chest pain, food stuck in the throat, heaviness or pressure in the neck or upper chest, are the result of swallowing difficulties.
There are many different causes of swallowing difficulty. Your doctor can effectively distinguish among them with a thorough medical history, physical exam, and testing.
Problems related to the upper areas of the mouth and pharynx include:
Problems related to the esophagus include:
Eat slowly, and chew food thoroughly. If a person suddenly shows signs of choking and difficulty breathing, 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 health care provider if
Call your provider if the problem continues, even if the symptoms are intermittent.
Tell your doctor about any other symptoms, such as cough, wheezing, fever, chills, abdominal pain, pain with swallowing, nausea or vomiting, vomiting of blood, weight loss, heartburn, or sour taste in the mouth.
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask medical history questions about your swallowing difficulty, such as:
Update Date: 1/26/2004Sreeni Jonnalagadda, M.D., Interventional and Pancreatobiliary Endoscopy, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT