Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing, or the feeling that food is "sticking" in your throat or chest. The feeling is actually in your esophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. You may experience dysphagia when swallowing solid foods, liquids, or both. Oropharyngeal dysphagia involves difficulty moving food from your mouth into your upper esophagus. Esophageal dysphagia involves difficulty moving food through your esophagus to your stomach. Dysphagia can affect you at any age, although the likelihood increases as you grow older.

Signs and Symptoms

The following are symptoms of oropharyngeal dysphagia. The following are symptoms of esophageal dysphagia.

What Causes It?

Dysphagia in children is often due to malformations, conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Dysphagia in adults is often due to tumors (benign or cancerous), conditions that cause the esophagus to narrow, neuromuscular conditions, or GERD. Other causes include smoking, excessive alcohol use, certain medications, and teeth or dentures in poor condition.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your health care provider may ask about your symptoms and eating habits. For infants and children, the health care provider may want to observe them eating. Your provider may also listen to your heart, take your pulse, and will want to know your medical history.

A variety of tests can be used for dysphagia.

Treatment Options

Dysphagia generally is treated with drugs, procedures that open up the esophagus, or surgery. Your treatment will depend on the cause, the seriousness, and any complications you may be experiencing. In most cases, you can be treated without hospitalization as long as you are able to eat enough and have a low risk of complications. If your esophagus is severely obstructed, however, you may be hospitalized. Infants and children with dysphagia are often hospitalized.

Drug Therapies

Check manufacturers' profiles for possible drug interactions. Liquid forms of medications may be necessary.

For spasms: For esophagitis:

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Herbs can be effective at decreasing spasms and healing an inflamed esophagus. Homeopathic remedies may be used at the same time.

Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). In addition, a combination of four of the following herbs may be used as either a tea or tincture. Use equal parts of the herbs, either 1 tsp. of each per cup of water and steep 10 minutes three times a day, or equal parts of tincture 30 to 60 drops three times a day. Homeopathy
Some of the most common remedies used for dysphagia are listed below. Usually, the dose is 12X to 30C every one to four hours until your symptoms get better.

Following Up

Dysphagia should not limit your activities, but your health care provider may restrict your diet.


Andreoli TE, Bennett JC, Carpenter CCJ. Cecil Essentials of Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 1993:284-285.

Antidepressants. NMIHI. Accessed at http://drugs.nmihi.com/antidepressants.htm on November 9, 2018.

Barker LR, Burton JR, Zieve PD, eds. Principles of Ambulatory Medicine. 4th ed. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1995:435-447.

Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace Publishers; 1995.

Calcium channel blockers. NMIHI. Accessed at http://drugs.nmihi.com/ccbs.htm on November 9, 2018.

Dambro MR, ed. Griffith's 5 Minute Clinical Consult. Baltimore, Md: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1999:346-347.

Dysphagia. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed at https://my.clevelandclinic.org/ on October 29, 2018.

Misoprostol. NMIHI. Accessed at http://www.nmihi.com/m/misoprostol.html on October 29, 2018.

Muscle relaxants. NMIHI. Accessed at http://drugs.nmihi.com/muscle-relaxants.htm on November 9, 2018.

Morrison R. Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms. Albany, Calif: Hahnemann Clinic Publishing; 1993.

Reynolds JEF. Martindale: the Extra Pharmacopoeia. 31st ed. London, England: Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 1996:1192.

Snow JA. Glycyrrhiza glabra L. (Leguminaceae). Protocol J Botan Med. 1996;1:9.

Stein JK, ed. Internal Medicine. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby-Year Book; 1994:361-362.

Stoller JK, Ahmad M, Longworth DL eds. The Cleveland Clinic Intensive Review of Internal Medicine. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1998:592-601.

Swallowing Disorders. MedlinePlus. Accessed at https://medlineplus.gov/ on October 29, 2018.

Swallowing Problems (Dysphagia). WebMD. Accessed at https://www.webmd.com/ on October 29, 2018.

Venlafaxine. NMIHI. Accessed at http://www.nmihi.com/u/venlafaxine.html on October 29, 2018.

What are the symptoms of dysphagia? American Academy of Family Physicians Accessed at https://familydoctor.org/ on October 29, 2018.