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Difficulty Swallowing In Adults

Sellwood Medical Clinic

Pediatric and Family Medicine practice with four locations in the greater Portland metropolitan area

Difficulty swallowing, clinically known as dysphagia, can be a sign of a neurological or muscle problem. If you have frequent trouble swallowing, contact the team at Sellwood Medical Clinic, with three locations in Portland, Oregon. They diagnose the cause of difficulty swallowing in adults and provide customized treatment. Call the practice or schedule a consultation online today.

Difficulty Swallowing in Adults Q & A

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the clinical term for difficulty swallowing. The condition is often a symptom of another issue, although in some cases, dysphagia doesn’t have a discernible cause. Dysphagia can develop at any age, but it’s most common in older patients. 

Some of the symptoms associated with difficulty swallowing include:


  • Pain while swallowing
  • Not being able to swallow at all
  • Feeling like food is stuck in your throat or deeper in your esophagus
  • Drooling 
  • A hoarse voice
  • Regurgitating food
  • Heartburn
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Gagging and coughing while swallowing


While everyone has pain or difficulty swallowing occasionally — for example, if you eat too quickly and don’t chew your food enough — you should contact the team at Sellwood Medical Clinic if you have consistent problems swallowing. 

What causes difficulty swallowing?

Dysphagia is usually classified as esophageal or oropharyngeal. Esophageal dysphagia occurs when food gets stuck in your throat after you’ve started to swallow. 

This could be due to problems with your esophagus like tumors, narrowing, or issues with your lower esophageal sphincter. 

Oropharyngeal dysphagia occurs when something weakens your throat muscles. For example, neurological issues like multiple sclerosis, stroke, or brain injuries can cause this type of dysphagia. 

How is dysphagia diagnosed?

At Sellwood Medical Clinic, the team performs physical exams and testing to diagnose the cause of your difficulty swallowing. They review your symptoms and medical history, and then examine your throat. 

The team might order tests, including X-rays with a contrast material, dynamic swallowing studies, or endoscopy. They might also request a CT scan or MRI to examine your throat and esophagus in more detail. 

How do you treat difficulty swallowing?

Treatment for difficulty swallowing depends on the underlying issue. The team offers customized care to address your specific needs. 

For example, if you have oropharyngeal dysphagia, your provider might recommend occupational therapy to help you coordinate your swallowing muscles or stimulate the nerves that trigger the swallowing reflex. 

You might also learn different swallowing techniques like positioning your head and body to help you swallow, or placing food in a specific part of your mouth.

Some of the treatments for esophageal dysphagia include medication and esophageal dilation to expand your esophagus and create more space for food and liquid to pass through. In severe cases, you might need surgery to remove tumors or clear your esophageal path. 

If you have difficulty swallowing, call Sellwood Medical Clinic or make an appointment online today for expert diagnosis and treatment.