Problems Swallowing Underlying Cause
Swallowing involves a sequence of actions as the food moves from the mouth to the stomach.
These actions include:
- After chewing, the tongue propels the food into the back of the throat.
- The top of the esophagus opens.
- Muscles in the throat propel the food into the esophagus.
- Muscles in the wall of the esophagus propel the food down the esophagus.
- The top of the esophagus closes.
- The bottom of the esophagus opens.
- Food enters the stomach.
- The bottom of the esophagus closes, preventing food from backing up into the esophagus after it reaches the stomach.
Difficulty swallowing may be caused by the following processes:
- Weakness of the muscles that regulate swallowing
- Obstruction of the esophagus
- Narrowing of the esophagus
- Irritation of the esophagus
- Injury to the esophagus
Common causes of difficulty swallowing include:
- Allergic reactions
- Acute angioedema
- Alcohol intoxication
- Drug abuse
- Drug side effect causing difficulty swallowing:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Head injury
- Mouth swelling:
- Peptic ulcer disease
- Throat swelling:
- Tongue swelling:
Less common causes of difficulty swallowing include:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Cerebral palsy
- Chagas disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Esophageal atresia:
- Failure of the esophagus to develop normally
- Esophageal cancer
- Esophageal stricture
- Laryngeal cancer
- Ludwig's angina
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Myasthenia gravis
- Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
- Parkinson's disease
- Peritonsillar abscess
- Retropharyngeal abscess
- Schatzki's ring
- Thyroid cancer
- Transient ischemic attack
Continue to Problems Swallowing Types
- Achem SR, Devault KR. Dysphagia in aging. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2005 May-Jun;39(5):357-71. 
- Cook IJ, Kahrilas PJ. AGA technical review on management of oropharyngeal dysphagia. Gastroenterology. 1999 Feb;116(2):455-78. 
- Leslie P, Drinnan MJ, Ford GA, Wilson JA. Swallow respiratory patterns and aging: presbyphagia or dysphagia? J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2005 Mar;60(3):391-5. 
- Rubenstein JH, Inadomi JM. Dysphagia drives doctors to diagnose a disease: pitfalls in interpreting observational studies. Gastrointest Endosc. 2005 Jun;61(7):809-11.