Dysphagia (Trouble Swallowing)

Dr. Matthew Smith explains what dysphagia is, how it is diagnosed, and the treatments available.

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia, or trouble swallowing, isn't necessarily a disease but more of a problem especially as you get older. A lot of patients with trouble swallowing feel like food is getting stuck underneath their breastbone. They might have previously had a modified barium swallow where you eat and drink different things with contrast to see if it's going back down to your lungs or if it's not going down to the proper place. Sometimes these patients come to see us and say, "Hey, they can't find any problems with my swallowing, but I feel like I have a sensation of things getting stuck or that I have a ball in the back of my throat."

How is dysphagia diagnosed and treated?

That feeling is related to a globus sensation that a lot of times can be treated with dilation, where we go in and stretch out the esophagus. Sometimes it is related to reflux disease. We see these types of patients to figure out exactly what's going on. We can help them with dilation endoscopically. Or if we find out that they have reflux disease based on additional testing, we tell them that treating that reflux disease may help.