Dysphagia | Diagnosis & Tests


How can my doctor tell if I have dysphagia?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms. He or she will probably ask you what foods or liquids you have trouble swallowing, or whether you have pain when swallowing or frequent heartburn. Your doctor may also ask you if you’ve coughed or thrown up any blood. If your doctor decides you may have dysphagia, he or she may order tests to figure out what is causing it.

You may have a test called a barium swallow. During this test, you will drink a liquid that contains a small amount of barium, then the doctor can watch it travel through your body on an X-ray machine. This test can show whether something is blocking your esophagus, or if another problem is causing your dysphagia.

You may also need an endoscopy. For this test, the doctor uses a flexible tube with a light at the end of it to look inside the esophagus, stomach and the first part of small intestine. The doctor may take a small sample of tissue (called a biopsy) to rule out cancer or other possible causes of your dysphagia. You will probably be given a sedative drug to make you more relaxed and comfortable during the test. Your throat will also be numbed, so you shouldn’t feel pain when the tube is inserted.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

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