What is swallowing difficulty?

The act of swallowing involves several organs of the digestive system, including the mouth, throat, pharynx and esophagus. It begins during mastication, or chewing of food, which is part of mechanical digestion. Your saliva contains enzymes that break down or emulsify food into a soft mass that can travel down the esophagus, the tube connecting your mouth to your esophagus. Swallowing is partly voluntary, occurring at your command, and partly involuntary, controlled by muscles and nerves.

Problems during any stage of this process can cause swallowing difficulty or pain occurring in the throat, chest or neck. You may feel pressure, heaviness, or the sensation of choking. It can also result in regurgitation or vomiting.

Swallowing difficulty can indicate a serious problem. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience painful swallowing accompanied by difficulty breathing, choking, vomiting blood, or stools that are bloody, black or tarry.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with swallowing difficulty?

Swallowing difficulty may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems.... Read more about swallowing difficultysymptoms

CAUSES

What causes swallowing difficulty?

Swallowing difficulty can have a number of causes, including infections, conditions specific to the esophagus (the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach), and mechanical obstructions such as food or an object caught in your throat.... Read more about swallowing difficultycauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Ear, Nose and Throat


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