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Swallowing Difficulty

You have described difficulty swallowing both liquids and solids, and your problem has been getting steadily worse.

If you began with difficulty swallowing solids and only recently developed difficulty swallowing liquids, then it is possible that your problem is a narrowing or blockage in the esophagus. Examples of things that could cause progressive narrowing of the esophagus include a stricture (circular scar from acid injury of the esophagus) or a cancer of the esophagus.

If you have had difficulty swallowing liquids from the time your symptoms first appeared, it is more likely that the esophagus is not moving normally. A condition that causes stiffening of the esophagus is one example of a problem that could cause symptoms like yours. This condition is called scleroderma. A change in the way that nerves trigger muscle contractions in the esophagus could also explain your symptoms. One such condition is named achalasia. Achalasia causes poor muscle tone in most of your esophagus (it can stretch to a wider shape), but there is tight tone at the muscular ring (sphincter) at the bottom of the esophagus.

Tests that might be recommended by your doctor include a video swallowing study (this study uses an x-ray technique called fluoroscopy to videotape your swallowing, while you consume samples of foods or drink containing a material that can show up on x-ray), esophagogastroduodenoscopy, or EGD (viewing of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum with a camera on a flexible, narrow cord), or a barium swallow (x-ray views of the esophagus after you swallow a liquid that shows up on x-ray).


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