What is Dysphagia?

Note: If you are looking for information on aphasia, which is sometimes also called dysphasia (different from dysphagia described below), please visit the aphasia definitions page.

Dysphagia is a disorder described as a regular difficulty swallowing or moving food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. This may be accompanied with pain.


What causes dysphagia?

There are several causes of dysphagia. Some relate to problems with the esophagus – the muscular passage connecting the mouth to the stomach. Such problems could be related to dysfunction of the esophageal muscles, tumors in the esophagus,  partial blockage of the throat, damage to esophageal tissues from stomach acid, and others.  Other causes are related to weakening of the throat muscles that may happen due to neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, or brain injury.


How does dysphagia relate to aphasia?

Besides being similar in name, the two disorders are actually quite distinct in their nature. Aphasia (sometimes also called dysphasia) is a speech and language disorder that results from neurological damage to areas involved in language processing. Dysphagia is not related to speech or language production or processing. A disorder that often co-occurs with aphasia – apraxia – is more similar to dysphasia in that it also involves the musculature of the articulators. However, apraxia is also not defined as difficulties swallowing but to production of speech sounds. Find out more about aphasia and apraxia here. [provide links to aphasia and apraxia from our site]


Further resources

To find out more about dysphagia, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and care, please visit the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website