Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties, which can affect children and adults for a number of reasons

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What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties. Some patients start with difficulties swallowing certain foods. You may notice solid foods like bread or meat get stuck in the throat or lower down on the way to your stomach.

This is often compensated by drinking more water or replacing solid diets with semi-solid or liquid diets. The difficulty with swallowing might worsen over time.

Need to know

Symptoms vary from person to person but may include:

  • difficulty swallowing certain foods or liquids, or just swallowing
  • coughing or choking when eating or drinking
  • regurgitating food after swallowing, back into the mouth or nose
  • feeling like food is stuck in your throat or lower down
  • continuously drooling saliva
  • over time weight loss and repeated chest infections

Dysphagia can be due to inflammatory, allergic or even malignant disorders. Your consultant will start investigations by taking an X-ray of your oesophagus (after you have swallowed a contrast) or by performing a camera examination (endoscopy).

  • If these results are normal, you are considered to have a non-obstructive dysphagia. This means the difficulty in swallowing is probably related to a disorder of function of the swallow mechanism or your oesophagus.
  • If the results reveal another suspected underlying cause you may be required to have further tests to confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment for this condition depends on your symptoms, but can include:

  • changing the consistency of food and drinks
  • speech and language therapy to learn new swallowing techniques
  • medication to improve the strength of the contractions
  • diatation of the valve between the oesophagus and stomach (achalasia)
  • an endoscopy/gastroscopy, which involves inserting a flexible tube down your mouth to examine your oesophagus and stomach

Our Dysphagia locations

The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Princess Grace Hospital

The Princess Grace Hospital

42-52 Nottingham Place W1U 5NY London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London
London Bridge Hospital

London Bridge Hospital

27 Tooley Street SE1 2PR London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.