Dysphagia. This is the technical medical term for difficulty swallowing which is a common complaint. Most people have experienced this sensation in their lives. It can occur when you’re eating something doughy like a bagel or French bread and then take few extra bites before swallowing. If you immediately swallow several times in a row you may get the sensation that the food is slowly passing toward your stomach. Your mouth may salivate; you might get a pressure sensation behind your breastbone; you might experience some pain, burning or discomfort. And, then you will feel instant relief the second the food you swallowed passes from the esophagus into the stomach. This is dysphagia.
For most people, this experience occurs very occasionally and usually when we are trying to eat too much, too quickly.
However, for some patients this symptom may occur more frequently such as daily and sometimes as often as every bite of food. It may also occur with solid food alone or with both solids and liquids. Most people will hope that the symptom will resolve by itself. Over time, they will often change the way they eat to avoid the symptom. They will eat slowly and chew their food till it resembles a paste, or they will use water to make things runny which then allows the food to pass.
What is interesting is that patients are reluctant to see or discuss this symptom with their physicians. In the last few months, I have seen patients who have had the symptom of dysphagia anywhere from 1 year to 40 years before they believed it was important enough to seek medical advice. The simple truth is that dysphagia that happens regularly or requires changes in the way you eat should be reported to a physician to determine the cause of the trouble.
What causes dysphagia?