Dysphagia, or impaired swallowing, can be an actual blockage of the throat, or a problem with the act of swallowing. While typically more common in the elderly, dysphagia has multiple causes and can affect people of all ages. Dysphagia can cause additional health problems and should therefore be diagnosed and treated appropriately.


Dysphagia is defined as difficulty swallowing or the feeling of an obstruction while swallowing. Dysphagia may be caused by a disease or damage to the nervous system, spasms of the muscles in the esophagus, or other conditions that physically block the esophagus or cause it to narrow.1 Impaired saliva production, or dry mouth, can also make dysphagia worse.


While dysphagia makes eating and drinking uncomfortable, it can also cause other serious health problems. Because many people with this condition do not seek or receive a proper diagnosis or medical treatment, eating and drinking less can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, weight loss, respiratory infections, and even social situations such as eating alone or not socializing with others. Since dysphagia can lead to insufficient nutrition, adapting eating and drinking behavior is an important step toward managing this condition.

1. http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/tc/difficulty-swallowing-dysphagia-overview. Accessed December 2014.