Dysphagia is the term used to describe difficulty swallowing. It may be associated with pain. Dysphagia can make it difficult to get appropriate nutrition which can lead to serious medical problems. In some cases, swallowing may be impossible.

The process of swallowing is incredibly complex, requiring more than 50 pairs of muscles to work together with nerves to move food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach. Dysphagia describes difficulty anywhere in the swallowing process, but there are generally three types:

Oral dysphagia

Also called “high dysphagia,” oral dysphagia refers to a problem in the mouth, difficulty chewing food, or difficulty moving food from the mouth to the throat. An example of oral dysphagia is tongue weakness caused by a stroke.

Pharyngeal dysphagia

This form of dysphagia describes a problem in the throat. Pharyngeal dysphagia is often caused by a neurological problem, such as a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).

Esophageal dysphagia

Also called “low dysphagia,” esophageal dysphagia is a problem in the esophagus. This is usually caused by irritation or a blockage and will often require a surgical procedure.

Symptoms People Often Express

  • Pain while swallowing (“odynophagia”)
  • Acid Reflux/GERD [link]
  • Having the feeling of food being stuck in the throat or chest, or behind the breastbone/sternum
  • Applicable Procedures
  • EGD

What are the risk factors for dysphagia?

Aging

As our bodies age, there can be a weakening of the esophagus from regular use. Older adults are therefore more at risk for dysphagia, though dysphagia is not considered a normal part of aging. Additionally, older adults are at a greater risk for conditions like Parkinson’s disease or stroke, which can cause swallowing difficulties.

Neurological conditions

Certain neurological or nervous system disorders are associated with swallowing difficulties, such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke, Multiple sclerosis, Myasthenia gravis (Goldflam disease), and Parkinson’s disease. More likely to experience difficulty swallowing.

What complications can result from dysphagia?

Difficulty swallowing can lead to:

  • Choking. For someone with difficulty swallowing, the greatest risk is food entering the throat and blocking air passage.
  • Weight loss, dehydration, and malnutrition. Adequate nutrition is required for good health. Those with dysphagia may have difficulty consuming the right foods to nourish their bodies, and the proper amount of liquids to stay hydrated.
  • Pneumonia and upper respiratory infections. Food and liquids that stay in the airway can introduce bacteria to the lungs and cause aspiration pneumonia.

How can I prevent dysphagia?

The majority of swallowing difficulties cannot be prevented. However, we can reduce the risk of occasional swallowing difficulties and the risk of choking by eating slowly and deliberately, and by always chewing our food well. For those with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), proper identification and treatment can help prevent esophageal dysphagia.

Common Symptoms

  • “There is lump in my throat that I cannot clear out.”
  • “I always feel like there is food stuck in my throat.”
  • “Sometimes it is difficult to swallow.”

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What Our Patients Are Saying

I’ve been a patient of Dr. Weber for almost a decade. My husband for more than & it was he who recommended Dr. Weber. He’s knowledgeable & well experienced in his field. Plus he’s an all around kind & nice guy. And you’d like how the office & tech staff are trained to run the operation of this practice. Efficient, patient and helpful! I’d feel very comfortable recommending this practice.

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I had a great time. Everyone was very friendly and professional. One nurse said I had nice eyes, which really helped my self esteem. Dr. Willie was fantastic. His concern about having magenta ink for the printer really shows what a caring man he is. The pictures turned out great. I framed them and hung them up on my wall at home. But, seriously the experience was pleasant. Thank you to everyone involved.

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Lord knows having a colonoscopy is zero fun. The prep nearly did me in. But after arriving at suite 270 every single person was pleasant and efficient. The attention to cleanliness in the office is very apparent and appreciated. Every employee introduced themselves by name, apologized for an IV that took two tries and made sure I was as comfortable as can be before I was ready to leave. However, I’m going to enjoy every minute of the five years before I need to return!

Marie C.

I have been here several times and have always been treated great. The receptionist are so kind and the nurses are wonderful so is the anesthesia person are so kind and answers any concerns you might have. My Dr Bologna is awesome. This is the place to go if you need endoscopy or colonoscopy. Thank all the staff for being so kind

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Our Doctors

We’re proud of our team here at Digestive Health Institute. Our health care providers include some of the very best colorectal surgeons, gastroenterologists and physician assistants. To learn more about our qualified team of specialists, please visit our providers page.

Amir Abadir MD, FRCPC

Anezi E. Bakken MD, MS

Sante D. Bologna MD, FACP

M. Emin Donat MD, FRCPC

Ronald Fogel MDCM, MHSA

Freeha Khan MD

Partha S. Nandi

Leonard G. Quallich III MD

Aditi Saxena MD

Jack Tocco DO

John R. Weber MD

Richard T. Wille MD

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FAQs

What happens during my first visit?
If you are a new patient, you can expect to have a complete physical exam. You will also be asked detailed questions about your current problems and your past medical history, your current medications, allergies, your family history and other pertinent medical information. If you are taking medications, please bring a completed medical history form with you to your appointment. Once the physician has reviewed your medical information and completed the physical examination, a plan of care will be developed. You may need to be seen again in the office, be referred back to your family physician for follow-up care, or require additional testing. If additional tests are needed, we will assist you in scheduling these tests.
What if I need to schedule an endoscopic procedure?

An endoscopic procedure allows the physician to visualize a part of your gastrointestinal tract with a special instrument called an endoscope. If your family physician has ordered testing, you will be contacted by telephone by one of our staff members. If a physician orders testing and you are in the office, the procedure can generally be scheduled during the course of your visit. You will be given a date, time, and location for the test, as well as written instructions telling you how to prepare for the test. If you have any questions about the procedure, please feel free to ask one of our staff members or the physician.

How do I get test results?

We ask that you wait 10 to 14 days before contacting us for results. Often results come from several different sources. This information needs to be compiled and reviewed by your physician before you can be appropriately advised. 

What insurances do you accept?

We accept payment from most insurance companies including Medicare, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Blue Care Network, Physicians Health Plan, Cofinity, Sparrow Professional Health Network, Medicaid, McLaren, Health Plus, and several others. Accepted insurances are subject to change at any time without notice.

If your insurance requires an authorization from your primary care physician, you may be asked to assist us in obtaining this authorization.

All patients are responsible for all copays and deductibles at the time of service.

If you have any questions regarding your benefits or insurance coverage, please contact our Billing Department at 248-844-9710.

What if I need to contact the doctor?

To contact your doctor during business hours please call our main number 248-844-9710. If you have an urgent need to speak with the doctor after hours, you will be rerouted to our after hours answering service, and your doctor will be paged. In the case of a medical emergency please proceed directly to the nearest hospital emergency room.

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