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4 Types of Conditions That Can Cause Swallowing Difficulties



Difficulty swallowing or dysphagia presents itself as taking more time to move liquid or food from your mouth to your stomach. It can be uncomfortable, painful, and even make swallowing impossible. Most people will sometimes experience occasional swallowing difficulties – for example, if you don’t chew your food enough before swallowing or if you’re eating too fast, and this is not usually any cause for concern. However, dysphagia that is persistent could be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition. 

Neurological Causes

Damage to the nervous system in the spinal cord and brain can interfere with the nerves that are responsible for beginning and controlling swallowing. There are various possible neurological causes of dysphagia. These include neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease that cause damage to the brain and nervous system over time, stroke, brain tumors, and myasthenia gravis, which is a rare condition that leads to a weakening of the muscles. 


Some conditions can lead to dysphagia by causing an obstruction in the throat or a narrowing of the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. There are various obstruction-based causes of dysphagia, including mouth or throat cancer, radiotherapy treatment, and infections such as thrush or tuberculosis that can cause inflammation of the esophagus.

Dysphagia can also be caused by pharyngeal pouches, which occur when a large sack develops in the upper part of the esophagus, reducing the ability to swallow. Finally, a common cause of dysphagia is GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease, where stomach acid in the esophagus causes narrowing due to scar tissue. SimplyThick thickener gel can make eating and swallowing easier with each of these conditions. 

Congenital and Developmental Conditions

Congenital conditions are conditions that a person is born with, while developmental conditions have an impact on the way that you develop. There are several congenital or developmental conditions that might cause dysphagia symptoms to develop in an individual.

These include cerebral palsy and learning disabilities. Cleft lip and palate, a common congenital condition that results in the upper lip or roof of the mouth having a split or gap, can also lead to trouble swallowing. 

Muscular Conditions

Any condition that has an impact on the muscles that we use to swallow food by pushing it down the esophagus and into the stomach can lead to dysphagia. Thankfully, such conditions are quite rare. Two muscular conditions that are commonly associated with the symptoms of dysphagia include achalasia and scleroderma. Achalasia occurs when the esophagus muscles are no longer able to relax and open to allow food or liquid to pass through and into the stomach.

With scleroderma, the body’s immune system begins to attack healthy tissue, which can cause the muscles of the esophagus and throat to become stiff. 

Dysphagia can be a symptom of various underlying conditions. As the muscles that we use for swallowing become weaker as we age, it is a symptom that is more likely to appear in elderly people, but it can affect people of any age. 

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