5 Conditions That Can Cause Difficulty Swallowing

Swallowing is an important part of eating and drinking. Even though we all do it every day, swallowing is a complex mechanism that involves coordinating both the smooth and skeletal muscles. Along with this, the autonomic nervous system plays a part in coordinating the different phases of swallowing food or liquid, which are the oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal phases. If this process fails, food becomes stuck in the throat, which can cause choking. Difficulty swallowing is known as dysphagia, and there are various conditions that can lead to it. 

Multiple Sclerosis

MS is a chronic disease that impacts the spinal cord and brain. It can be potentially disabling and occurs whenever there is damage to the nerve cell outer covering, which causes nerve signals to stop or slow down. Multiple sclerosis can lead to several symptoms including a lack of coordination, extreme fatigue, vision problems, and cognitive impairment. This can also cause delayed swallowing responses to develop, which can lead to a weakening of the pharyngeal wall and difficulty swallowing over time. While there is no cure, it can be managed with proper treatment. SimplyThick offers food items designed to be easier for people with difficulties swallowing to consume. 

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy refers to a group of disorders that can impact coordination and body movement. It is related to disruptions in brain development. It can lead to a range of different symptoms including weak arms or legs, a lack of muscle coordination, tremors, and stiff muscles. Along with problems with movement, patients with this condition may also experience difficulties swallowing, although this is more common among people who have moderate to severe forms of cerebral palsy. 

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is a condition that occurs as the result of a malignant tumor forming in the esophagus. The esophagus is a muscular tube that serves the purpose of carrying food into the stomach. There may not be any noticeable symptoms during the early stages; however, the tumor can begin to block the esophagus as it grows, which can cause difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms include throat pain, heartburn, painful swallowing, weight loss, and regurgitation. 


A stroke will occur when blood stops flowing to the brain due to a blockage or rupture. When the brain cells are deprived of nutrients and oxygen, they will begin to die within minutes. Reducing the risk of permanent damage is possible, but only with very fast treatment. After experiencing a stroke, an individual may have symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty talking, paralysis, and difficulty swallowing. These problems may be temporary or permanent depending on the severity of the stroke. 


A goiter refers to an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland, which is an organ found at the base of the neck. The thyroid gland manages hormone production. Autoimmune diseases and hyperthyroidism can contribute to this condition. Symptoms include visible swelling, a tightness of the throat, hoarseness and coughing. 

While many instances of difficulty swallowing are not a cause for concern, a persistent problem coupled with other symptoms could be a sign of a more serious condition. 

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