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Alternative Names Return to topDysphagia; Impaired swallowing
Definition Return to top
Difficulty when swallowing is the sensation that food is stuck in the throat or upper chest. This may be felt high in the neck or lower down, behind the breastbone (sternum).
Considerations Return to top
Swallowing is a complex act that involves the mouth, throat area, and esophagus (the tube that moves food to the stomach). Many nerves and muscles control how these body parts work. Part of the act of swallowing is under voluntary control, which means you are aware of controlling the action. However, much of swallowing is involuntary.
Problems at any point -- from chewing food and moving it into the back of the mouth to moving the food into the stomach -- can result in difficulty swallowing.
Chest pain, the feeling of food stuck in the throat, or heaviness or pressure in the neck or upper chest are frequently the result of swallowing difficulties.
Causes Return to top
There are many different causes of swallowing difficulty.
Causes may include:
Home Care Return to top
Eat slowly, and chew food thoroughly. If a person suddenly shows signs of choking and difficulty breathing, the Heimlich maneuver should be performed immediately.
You may have an easier time swallowing liquids or pureed foods than solids. Avoid very cold or very hot foods if you notice that they worsen the problem.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your provider if the problem continues, even if the symptoms come and go.
Tell your doctor about any other symptoms you may have including:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
The following tests may be done:Update Date: 11/13/2007 Updated by: Christian Stone, M.D., Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.