“Common Causes of Swallowing Problems and When to See a Gastroenterologist?”

Swallowing Problem

“Written by Dr.Kaushal Madan, MD (General Medicine) MAMC, DNB(General Med) National Board of Examination, DM(Gastro) AIIMS”

Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, can be a concerning symptom that may indicate  a serious underlying issue with your  food pipe . While occasional  swallowing difficulty is normal, persistent or worsening symptoms should not be ignored. In this blog post, we’ll explore the common causes of trouble swallowing and discuss when it’s crucial to seek help from a gastroenterologist.

Common Causes of Trouble Swallowing:

1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):

GERD is a condition where stomach acid frequently flows back into the oesophagus (food pipe), leading to irritation and inflammation. This can cause a sensation of food sticking in the throat.

2. Esophageal Strictures:

Narrowing of the esophagus due to scar tissue or inflammation can result in difficulty swallowing. This may be caused by exposure to prolonged acid reflux, or certain medications.

3. Swallowing difficulty can also occur due to muscle movement disorders in the oesophagus (food pipe)

Conditions like Achalasia, where the lower part of the food pipe fails to relax, or uncoordinated spasm of the food pipe can lead to dysphagia as well as pain during swallowing.

4. Hiatus  Hernia:

This occurs when a portion of the stomach is pulled up from the abdomen into the chest area, through the horizontal partition muscle called- diaphragm. It can lead to acid reflux and difficulty in swallowing.

5. Tumors and Growths:

Both benign and malignant tumors in the esophagus can obstruct the passage of food and  cause dysphagia.

When to See a Gastroenterologist:

1. Persistent Symptoms:

Generally,  if you’ve been experiencing difficulty swallowing for more than 2 weeks, it’s essential to seek professional medical advice. If the symptoms are severe or rapidly worsening – sek help sooner.

2. Pain or Discomfort:

Any associated pain, discomfort, or a feeling of food getting stuck warrants immediate attention.

3. Unexplained Weight Loss:

If you’ve been losing weight without trying, especially in conjunction with swallowing difficulties, it’s important to see a specialist.

4. Recurrent Heartburn or Acid Reflux:

Chronic acid reflux may lead to esophageal issues. If you experience heartburn more than twice a week, consult your Gastroenterologist.

5. History of Esophageal Conditions:

If you have a history of esophageal conditions like Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer, any new symptoms should be evaluated promptly by the gastroenterologist. 

Usual workup for swallowing difficulties include several blood tests, barium swallow ( x-ray done after ingestion of a contrast agent), and upper GI endoscopy. You may also need to undergo a test called Esophageal manometry (measuring of pressure inside the food pipe) or 24 hour pHmetry (measuring the exposure to acid inside the food pipe).


Trouble swallowing can have a range of underlying causes, some of which may require specialized care from a gastroenterologist. Recognizing the signs and seeking timely medical attention can lead to effective treatment and a better quality of life. If you’re experiencing persistent swallowing difficulties, don’t hesitate to reach out to our expert gastroenterologists at Docgenie for personalized telemedicine consultations.

Excellent Gastrointestinal Disease specialist doctors work with DocGenie and are ready to help you with any GI related issues.  You can get an online/in-cinic consultation with a Gastrointestinal Disease specialist on DocGenie for early treatment and cure.