What Causes Swallowing Problems?

There are many things that can cause a problem with the swallow. Disorders that cause nerve or muscle weakness can disrupt the timing of the stages of the swallow. Throat weakness from strokes can cause inefficient stripping of the food from the throat leading to food build up and choking. Sensation problems from inflammation or from neurologic problems can cause trouble sensing when food is left over in the throat. Tightness of the muscle at the top of the esophagus can cause pills and solids to stick in the throat which can lead to choking or the need to regurgitate the food. Anatomic problems like Zenkers diverticulum (a pouch in the upper esophagus) can cause food and liquid to build up and make the patient choke or cough. Vocal cord weakness can cause choking while drinking liquids, a problem that is often solved when the surgery to move the vocal cord over to the midline is completed. Tumors or growths in the throat or spine may block normal food passage and cause difficulty with swallowing. Reflux disease (GERD or LPRD) can cause swelling where the food goes down. Radiation therapy can cause stiffness or fibrosis of throat muscles which can make swallowing difficult.