Certain health problems that affect the nervous system can cause trouble
swallowing. These conditions include stroke, ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), Parkinson's disease, and
multiple sclerosis. The muscles and nerves that help move food through the throat and esophagus may not work right. Growths, such as cancer, and other problems with your esophagus can also make it hard to swallow. The esophagus is the tube that leads from your throat to your stomach.
A doctor or speech therapist will examine you to check for swallowing problems. You may get swallowing tests to check how well your throat muscles work. For these tests, you swallow a special liquid that helps the doctor see your throat and esophagus on an X-ray or video screen.
Other tests use a thin, flexible tube called a scope to check for problems with your esophagus. The doctor puts the scope in your mouth and down your throat to look at your esophagus.
Symptoms of swallowing problems may include:
How swallowing problems are treated depends on the cause. The main goals of treatment will be to help you eat and swallow safely and get good nutrition. This is important for your health and quality of life.
You may learn exercises to train your throat muscles to work together so you're able to swallow better. Learning certain ways to put food in your mouth or to position your head while eating may also help.
Your doctor or a speech therapist may recommend changes to your diet to help make it easier to swallow. You may need to avoid certain foods or liquids.
You also may need to change the thickness of foods or liquids in your diet.
To eat and swallow safely, follow any instructions you get from your doctor or therapist. These ideas may help:
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter D018 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Swallowing Problems."
Current as of:
May 27, 2016
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
& Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
© 2006-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.