The sensation that food is stuck in your throat is both distressing and uncomfortable. If you or a loved one experiences it regularly, it could be a sign of dysphagia, which is difficulty swallowing. People with dysphagia may also experience pain when they swallow.
Dysphagia can range from mild to severe, in which a person is completely unable to swallow. It can affect your ability to consume foods and liquid, or even drain your own saliva.
Dysphagia affects up to 15 million Americans, most of them older adults. Here at GastroDoxs, Dr. Bharat Pothuri and our experienced team assess patients with dysphagia to determine the underlying cause and offer individualized treatment.
Dysphagia can often go untreated, leaving patients vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies, aspiration pneumonia, and choking. If you suspect you have dysphagia, or a family member does, read on to learn more about the symptoms and when you should seek professional care.
Dysphagia is a medical term used to describe difficulty in swallowing or the sensation of food getting stuck in the throat or chest.
There are two types of dysphagia, oropharyngeal and esophageal. Oropharyngeal dysphagia describes difficulty initiating swallowing. Esophageal dysphagia describes difficulty in passing food down the esophagus. If you feel like you have food stuck in your throat, you probably have esophageal dysphagia.
In addition to feeling like you have food stuck in your throat, you may find that you cough or clear your throat while eating certain foods. Pills may also feel like they get stuck. Your voice can develop a gurgling or wet quality after eating and drinking, too.
Causes of dysphagia
Dysphagia may result from common conditions, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), obstructive tumors or growths in the esophagus, or weakening of the muscles and nerves associated with swallowing due to stroke or aging.
Some other common causes of dysphagia include:
This is an allergic, inflammatory condition of the esophagus that can lead to swallowing difficulties.
When a portion of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm, it can impede the normal passage of food.
Achalasia is a rare disorder in which the lower esophageal sphincter fails to relax, making it difficult for food to pass into the stomach.
Certain neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, can affect the coordination of the swallowing process.
Zenker’s diverticulum is a pouch that forms in the esophagus, trapping food particles and causing difficulty in swallowing.
When to seek medical care
If you experience recurring sensations of food getting stuck in your throat or any difficulty in swallowing, seek prompt medical evaluation. A gastroenterologist like Dr. Pothuri can do a thorough evaluation that may include a physical examination, diagnostic tests, and imaging, including endoscopy.
An endoscopy uses a flexible, thin tube with a camera and light source to examine and possibly correct issues in the esophagus.
Treatment options for dysphagia
Treatment for dysphagia depends on the underlying cause. Dr. Pothuri coordinates with other care providers such as neurologists or oncologists, if needed.
Successful treatment plans for dysphagia often include:
Adjusting their eating habits can help a person with dysphagia feel more comfortable and get adequate nutrition. Changes may include eating smaller and more frequent meals, avoiding trigger foods, and maintaining an upright posture after meals.
Dr. Pothuri may prescribe acid-suppressing medications for GERD or anti-inflammatory drugs for esophagitis if either is the cause of dysphagia.
You may undergo dilation of esophageal strictures (abnormal narrowing of the esophagus) or removal of small tumors can be performed using endoscopy.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct structural abnormalities.
Don’t ignore the uncomfortable sensation of food being stuck in your throat. Set up an appointment at GastroDoxs today. Click here to book an appointment or call our office in Houston, Texas.