Swallowing abnormalities include difficulty swallowing, termed dysphagia, and painful swallowing, termed odynophagia. Dysphagia can be further subclassified into difficulty with liquids, solids or both.
Common causes of difficulty or painful swallowing include:
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
• Peptic strictures
• Esophageal webs
• Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE)
• Achalasia and other motility disorders
• Infections of the esophagus
A detailed history and physical examination is the first step in the diagnosis of swallowing abnormalities. An upper endoscopy is frequently performed to help determine the cause of symptoms. This involves the passage of a thin, flexible tube with a camera and light on it so that the upper GI tract can be visualized. At times, a barium X-ray of the esophagus is used in the work up of swallowing disorders called an esophagram. If a motility disorder is suspected, your doctor may recommend specialized testing of the esophagus such as esophageal manometry. This test tells your doctor if the muscles involved in swallowing are working appropriately.
The management of swallowing difficulties largely depends on the established cause. Certain medications can be used such as those that reduce stomach acid or treat certain infections of the esophagus. At times, your doctor can treat the underlying cause during the upper endoscopy by a procedure called a dilation. This involves using a balloon to gently stretch and widen any narrowings within the esophagus. Surgery may be recommended if there are any tumors or growths found in the esophagus.
The information provided above is meant to be used as an informative guide for patients. For precise and individualized recommendations, please consult with one of our board certified gastroenterologists to discuss your symptoms.
For additional information or to book an appointment at the Gastroenterology Center of New York, please feel free to reach out to our dedicated team by calling us at 718-210-2960. You can also schedule online or reach out to us via the Contact Us form.