Dysphagia: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Occasional difficulty swallowing can result from eating too quickly or not chewing properly. However, individuals who experience repeated difficulty swallowing may have a condition called dysphagia. Left untreated, persistent dysphagia can lead to malnutrition, choking, and other dangers. Dr. Michael Cohen is a board-certified specialist who treats dysphagia at his Long Island, NY, clinic. Treatment is usually highly effective and can restore both your health and comfort. 

Illustration of healthy throat vs. dysphagia

In some cases of dysphagia, the esophageal muscles become weakened or fail to relax properly during swallowing.

What Is Dysphagia?

While most people experience swallowing as a simple involuntary action, the process of moving food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach requires the careful coordination of muscles along the throat and esophagus. If these muscles do not work in sync, or if there is a blockage, patients may experience difficulty swallowing. When individuals experience frequent and regular difficulty swallowing, they may have a condition known as dysphagia.

Dr. Cohen will use innovative methods to ensure your dysphagia treatment involves minimal discomfort and a short recovery time.

The condition can occur at any age but is more common among adults. In extreme cases, people suffering from dysphagia may not be able to swallow at all.

Common Symptoms of Dysphagia

An estimated 10 million Americans are screened for this condition each year. Symptoms associated with dysphagia may include:

  • Discomfort while swallowing
  • Inability to swallow
  • Drooling excessively
  • Frequent chocking sensation
  • Regurgitation
  • Malnutrition
  • Heartburn
  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Recurrent pneumonia
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Weight loss

Conditions such as chronic laryngitis can also indicate trouble swallowing.

Causes of Dysphagia

There can be many causes of dysphagia. When diagnosing your symptoms, Dr. Cohen may examine your mouth and throat. He might also order x-rays or other types of tests and will discuss your medical history. Common causes include.

  • Diffuse spasm: This condition causes the involuntary muscles along the walls of your lower esophagus to contract with poor coordination.
  • Achalasia: Achalasia impedes the lower esophageal muscle’s ability to relax properly, resulting in the backing up of food in the throat.
  • Tumors: Esophageal tumors can restrict the passage of food as they grow.
  • Esophageal stricture: The narrowing of part of the esophagus (stricture) can be caused by tumors, scarring, or other causes.
  • Esophageal ring: When a thin area in the lower esophagus becomes narrowed, patients may experience intermittent difficulty swallowing.
  • GERD: Damage from acid reflux can cause narrowing in the lower esophagus.
  • Radiation therapy: Certain cancer treatments can inflame the esophagus.
  • Neurological disorders: Disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and muscular dystrophy can cause difficulty swallowing.
  • Scleroderma: This condition causes the tissues of the esophagus to harden and narrow.
  • Esophagitis: GERD, infections, or other causes can cause inflammation of the esophagus.

Treatment Options For Dysphagia

When treating your dysphagia, Dr. Cohen will start with the least invasive option available. Common treatments for dysphagia include:

  • Exercises to retrain your muscles
  • Nutritional restrictions
  • Dilations to expand your esophagus
  • Medications
  • Surgery
  • BOTOX® injections
  • PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) tubes
  • Endoscopy

Contact Our Office Today

Dr. Cohen is board-certified in otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, and facial plastic surgery. When treating your dysphagia, he will use innovative methods and technology to ensure your treatment involves minimal discomfort and a short recovery time. If you are experiencing symptoms of dysphagia and would like to learn about your treatment options, contact our office online or call (516) 921-6780.

Michael S. Cohen, MD

Michael S. Cohen, MD is board-certified in Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, and Facial Plastic Surgery. He uses the latest tools and treatments to perform precise, comfortable, and effective care. Dr. Cohen is the Medical Director of the ProHealth Day-Op Ambulatory Surgical Center. He is also affiliated with: 

  • NYU - Winthrop University Hospital
  • Northwell Health Long Island Jewish Hospital
  • Northwell Health Huntington Hospital
  • Cohen’s Children’s Hospital

To speak with Dr. Cohen about your needs, request an appointment online or call us at (516) 921-6780.

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