Trouble Swallowing? Here are a Few Possible Reasons Why

Swallowing is so simple. It’s one of those everyday things we usually don’t even notice until we have difficulty doing them. What about you? Are you or your child having trouble swallowing?

Difficulty swallowing, both when accompanied by pain or not accompanied by pain, is more common in older adults and babies, and is often not a serious problem. But it is important to pay attention to your symptoms, which may include gagging or choking when swallowing, the sensation of food or liquid getting stuck in the throat or chest, or weight loss.

If you regularly have problems (i.e. more than once or twice), you should see a doctor who specializes in these types of issues, an ear, nose and throat doctor.

In the medical community, the term for having difficulty swallowing is dysphagia. Here are a few possible reasons why you might be having trouble passing liquid or food from your mouth to your stomach.

A cold, sore throat, or tonsillitis

Not being able to swallow easily could be the result of inflammation. Maybe you have a sore throat, a cold, or tonsillitis. In these cases, your problem is not serious and can be taken care of through medication and taking extra care of your body.

You may also want to visit an ear, nose, and throat doctor if your problems persist. At Northeast Atlanta Ear, Nose & Throat, we offer pediatric services and adult services to those experiencing trouble swallowing in Johns Creek/Suwanee and Lawrenceville, GA.

Gastroesophageal reflux

One common cause of dysphagia is gastroesophageal reflux (otherwise known as gastro or acid reflux). This occurs when stomach acid moves up to the esophagus to the pharynx, causing discomfort.

Treatment can come from changing living and eating habits, such as elevating the head of the bed at night, avoiding food close to bedtime, and from antacids or other medications.

Damage to the nervous system

Damage to your nervous system can cause you to have difficulty swallowing. This includes:

  • Stroke

  • Brain injury

  • Spinal cord injury

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease

  • Muscular dystrophy

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Alzheimer’s disease

Problems and disorders affecting the head and neck

There are a variety of other problems that may affect your head and neck:

  • Injuries to the head, neck, and chest.

  • Dental problems or dentures that don’t fit properly.

  • Ulcers in the esophagus.

  • Esophageal spasm– the muscles of the esophagus suddenly squeeze and can sometimes prevent food from reaching the stomach.

  • Scleroderma– tissues of the esophagus become hard and narrow.

  • Diverticula– there are small sacs in the walls of the esophagus or throat.

  • Goiter is the abnormal increase in the size of your thyroid gland.

  • Cancer of the head, neck, or esophagus may cause swallowing problems. If you notice a small lump on your throat or neck, it is very important to get your neck mass checked out by a doctor.

  • Sometimes people are born with abnormalities affecting their swallowing mechanism, such as babies being born with cleft lips.

  • Allergies to food or things in the air.

  • Stress or severe anxiety disorders can make it hard for the muscles to relax.

Ease your pain and worry by seeing an ENT doctor

If you or your family have been experiencing pain and trouble swallowing normally, don’t just say you have no time to deal with this issue. This could be a serious health concern, so it’s important to see someone who understands your problem: an ear, nose and throat doctor.

If you’re in the Lawrenceville or Johns Creek area, Northeast Atlanta ENT wants to help you. Call us today at 770-237-3000 for our Lawrenceville location, or at 770-623-1608 for our Johns Creek location to talk to an expert about your swallowing problems, and to schedule an appointment for you or your family member as soon as possible.