Difficulty Swallowing (dysphagia)

If you’ve suffered from heartburn or acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), for a long time, you may begin to feel discomfort as food passes through the esophagus. It can feel as if you have a lump in your throat or that food is stuck in your throat or chest. You may also experience a choking sensation when you swallow food. Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, is the feeling of food “sticking” in your throat or chest and is one of the complications of acid reflux/GERD.

When acid reflux occurs, acid flows back into your esophagus causing irritation and discomfort. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle, located at the bottom of your esophagus, works like a valve, opening and closing to allow food to flow into the stomach and to keep acid and food from refluxing back into the esophagus. When pressure is put on the LES from overeating, excess weight, or lying down after eating, the LES opens, allowing acid to flow back into your esophagus. With chronic acid reflux/GERD, this is happening frequently causing irritation to the esophagus, which can lead to other complications such as dysphagia.

Symptoms of Dysphagia

  • Pain while swallowing
  • Not being able to swallow
  • Sensation of food “sticking” in your throat or chest
  • Coughing when swallowing
  • Unexpected weight loss

If you experience difficulty swallowing on a regular basis, you may have a more serious condition requiring treatment. See a gastroenterologist if you develop dysphagia so that it can be properly diagnosed and promptly treated.