Dysphagia | Causes & Risk Factors


What causes dysphagia?

Dysphagia can happen at any age, but it is more common in older people. Many different things can cause dysphagia:

Poor eating habits. Eating too fast, taking large bites, eating while lying down or not drinking enough water while eating can all cause dysphagia. You may also experience dysphagia if you can’t chew properly because of painful or missing teeth or dentures.

Nerve and muscle disorders. People who have had a stroke, or people who have Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy or myasthenia gravis may have problems swallowing. These disorders can stop the nerves and muscles in your esophagus (the tube that runs from your mouth and throat down to your stomach) from working right. This can cause food to move slowly or even get stuck in the esophagus.

Problems with the esophagus itself. For example, conditions like acid reflux can damage the esophagus and cause scar tissue to form. The scar tissue may narrow the opening of the esophagus and may result in dysphagia.

Other disorders. Certain cancers, an enlarged thyroid or an enlarged heart may put pressure on the esophagus and cause dysphagia.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 09/09