Augusta University Voice and Swallowing Center

Dysphagia

Dysphagia (Pronounced Dys-PHAY-gee-ah) refers to difficulty swallowing. It originates from the greek roots dys-, meaning bad and phaegin meaning to eat or swallow.  Dysphagia is a symptom that can arise anywhere along the swallowing tract, from the lips to the stomach. 

Common causes include:

  • neurological disorders (i.e. stroke, Parkinson’s, brain injury, myasthenia gravis, ALS)
  • structural problems along the swallowing tract (i.e. tumor, diverticulum, stricture)
  • general weakness. 

One of the dangers of dysphagia is aspiration, or food and liquid entering the airway. A variety of treatment approaches are available, depending on the underlying cause and severity. Treatment may include:

  • Modifying food and liquid textures such as thickening liquids or avoiding certain consistencies
  • Modifying head and/or body position during meals
  • Changing the manner of eating and drinking
  • Exercises to improve strength, speed and coordination of swallowing
  • Exercises to improve airway protection during swallowing
  • Electrical stimulation of the swallowing muscles to increase strength and coordination
  • Surgery to repair muscle valve and voice box function
  • Balloon endoscopy to widen and reopen a constricted esophagus
  • Medication to prevent esophageal spasms or lower the production of stomach acid.