Should I be Worried About Difficulty Swallowing?

Everyone gets a lump of food stuck in their throat from time to time. It can happen when you eat too quickly or don’t chew your food all the way. However, if you frequently have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), it may be due to a serious condition that requires medical treatment.

Dysphagia falls into several different categories. Esophageal dysphagia is the most common one, and it refers to the feeling of food getting caught in your throat or chest when you swallow. Some causes of esophageal dysphagia include:

  • GERD: People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) experience chronic acid reflux that can lead to scar tissue and a narrowing of the esophagus. That’s the tube that carries food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach. A narrowed esophagus (stricture) impedes normal swallowing function and can even trap large pieces of food.
  • Barrett’s esophagus: Esophageal damage can also cause dysphagia. The flat pink tissue that lines the esophagus gets thicker and turns red when damaged. This condition, known as Barrett’s esophagus, is a potentially serious complication of GERD that is associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer. 
  • Esophageal cancer: Difficulty swallowing is the most common symptom of esophageal cancer. It can be mild at the start and get worse over time as the cancer grows. Having trouble swallowing does not mean that you have cancer, but it is something that you should get checked. 
  • Achalasia: The ring-shaped muscle at the bottom of your esophagus needs to relax to let food pass into your stomach. When it doesn’t, food and liquid may travel back up into your throat. This is a rare disorder called achalasia.

When to See a Doctor for Dysphagia

Schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist for any long-term troubles with swallowing. You should also see a doctor if your dysphagia is accompanied by other symptoms such as weight loss, regurgitation, or vomiting, which may indicate a serious medical condition.

Gramercy Park Digestive Disease Center (GPDDC) is affiliated with board-certified gastroenterology specialists who can help you find relief from swallowing difficulties. Call 217-979-3237 today to arrange a consultation. We proudly serve patients from across New York City.

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