Dysphagia Treatment

Trouble swallowing, constantly feeling like something is stuck in you throat, and coughing or choking with eating or drinking could be signs of dysphagia. Dysphagia is trouble with eating because you have problems with swallowing. Dysphagia makes it very difficult to enjoy eating and drinking.

In severe cases, even saliva is hard to swallow. If that's the case, you may not be able to get enough fluids and calories to stay healthy. You may wind up with pneumonia from food or liquid getting into your lungs, food getting stuck in your esophagus, malnutrition, dehydration, and weight loss.

Treating Dysphagia at UVA Health

Treating underlying conditions may help improve your swallowing problems. Some causes of dysphagia can be treated during an endoscopy (a procedure where we look at your throat and esophagus with a camera). 

A speech-language pathologist can also show you:

  • Ways to help you swallow more easily
  • Exercises that strengthen the muscles needed for swallowing

Diet Changes

Diet changes don't treat dysphagia. But they can make the symptoms easier to manage. If your dysphagia is bad, you may need to follow a liquid diet. 

Nonsurgical Procedures

Nonsurgical treatments include progressive dilatation —  a process by which your doctor slowly stretches your esophagus.


In some cases, surgery can:

  • Ease pressue from tight muscles
  • Remove a blockage in your esophagus
  • Place a stent (a tiny tube that holds your esophagus open)
  • Place a feeding tube

Why Did I Get Dysphagia?

You may get dysphagia if you have:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Have tumors or other issues in your throat or esophagus
  • Been treated for head and neck cancer
  • A neurological disorder or muscle disorder
  • Head injury
  • Swelling or infection in your esophagus
  • Differences in how your neck or esophagus are shaped (like Zenker’s diverticulum or Cricopharyngeal bar)