Swallowing is a complex process that involves many different muscles. Generally speaking, those struggling with a swallowing disorder have either esophageal dysphagia or oropharyngeal dysphagia. Esophageal swallowing disorders refer to the sensation of having food stuck to your mouth or throat after swallowing. Some of the causes of this form of dysphagia include:
- Achalasia–This occurs when the lower sphincter muscle in the throat does not relax properly so food can enter the stomach.
- Esophageal stricture–A narrowed esophagus can trap large pieces of food, and this narrowing is usually caused by tumors or scar tissue in the throat.
- Esophageal tumors–Those who have tumors in their esophagus tend to have difficulty swallowing.
- Scleroderma–This condition occurs when scar-like tissue develops and the esophageal sphincter weakens.
Comparatively, oropharyngeal swallowing disorders weaken the throat muscles, making it difficult for a person to move food from their mouth to their throat while eating. Some of the causes of oropharyngeal swallowing disorders include:
- Neurological disorders–Certain health conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis can lead to swallowing problems.
- Pharyngeal diverticula–This occurs when a small pouch forms in the throat and collects food particles just above the esophagus.
- Cancer–Some cancers and cancer treatments, like radiation, can cause difficulty swallowing.
Neurological damage--When sudden neurological damage occurs, like a stroke or spinal cord injury, the ability to swallow normally may be affected.