Difficulty Swallowing

What Is Difficulty Swallowing

Dysphagia refers to the difficulty or even impossibility of swallowing. While seemingly simple, swallowing is a complex process requiring the coordinated effort of the brain, numerous nerves and muscles, two muscular valves, and an unobstructed esophagus (your swallowing tube).

Causes of Difficulty Swallowing

Dysphagia can stem from a diverse range of factors, including:
  • Brain disturbances
  • Muscle problems.
  • Achalasia
  • Diffuse esophageal spasms
  • Esophageal stricture
  • Blockages
  • Esophageal rings
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis
  • Frequent heartburn.
  • Radiation therapy

Symptoms of Difficulty Swallowing?

  • Frequent choking on food
  • It takes more than a few seconds to swallow
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Repeated pneumonia, which could mean food is going into the lungs rather than the esophagus

Diagnosis of Difficulty Swallowing?

  • Cineradiography
  • Upper endoscopy
  • Manometry
  • Impedance and pH test

Treatment of Difficulty Swallowing

Treatment for dysphagia depends on the specific type and severity. Some cases resolve spontaneously, while others require simple management strategies. Complex dysphagia may necessitate specialist intervention.
Individuals experiencing chewing or swallowing difficulties can implement various strategies to facilitate safe and easier eating and drinking.
  • Maintain a 90-degree upright seated position.
  • Tilt your head slightly forward.
  • Remain upright or standing for 15-20 minutes after meals.

Dining Environment:

  • Minimize distractions during mealtimes.
  • Focus on the act of eating and drinking.
  • Avoid talking with food in your mouth.
Amount and Rate
  • Consume food slowly.
  • Cut food into small pieces and chew thoroughly until liquefied in your mouth before swallowing.
  • Limit intake to no more than 1/2 teaspoon of food at a time.


  • Two to three swallowing attempts per bite or sip may be necessary.
  • If food or liquid lodges in your throat, cough gently or clear your throat and swallow again before inhaling. Repeat as needed.
  • Maintain focus on deliberate swallowing throughout the process.
Saliva Management:
  • Maintain adequate hydration.
  • Suck on ice pops, ice chips, lemon ice, or lemon-flavored water to stimulate saliva production and increase swallowing frequency.
Food Consistency:
  • Avoid foods that are difficult to chew.
  • Puree food using a blender.
  • If thin liquids induce coughing, use a liquid thickener recommended by a speech pathologist. Substitute thicker liquids, like nectar for juice and cream soup for broth.

Medication Management:

  • Crush pills and mix them with applesauce or pudding.
  • Consult your pharmacist for guidance on medications that cannot be crushed and alternative liquid formulations.
“Thank you for visiting Forest Hills Gastroenterology & Liver Disease, my goal is to treat my patients in a highly personalized manner and I am dedicated to give you the utmost attention and respect that you deserve. For more infromation on this disease or to schedule a consultation with me, please give us a call or book a tele-health appointment online.”

Albert Shalomov

Dr. Albert Shalomov, MD