Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing)

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Diseases of skeletal muscle of the pharynx

  • Polymyositis. Polymyositis is a disease of unknown cause in which skeletal muscle becomes inflamed and degenerates. It can affect skeletal muscle of the body as well as the pharynx.
  • Myasthenia gravis. Myasthenia gravis is a disease in which there is abnormal transmission of signals between motor nerves and the skeletal muscles they control. The skeletal muscle of the pharynx may be affected.
  • Muscular dystrophies. The muscular dystrophies are a group of inherited (genetic) diseases that are caused by the production of abnormal proteins in skeletal muscle cells. The abnormal proteins result in degeneration of the muscle cells and their replacement with scar tissue or fat. The primary symptoms of the muscular dystrophies are muscleweakness and spasm. Examples of muscular dystrophies include myotonic dystrophy, Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, and Becker's muscular dystrophy.
  • Metabolic myopathies. Metabolic myopathies are a group of rare, inherited (genetic) diseases that are caused by a deficiency in activity of the enzymes in skeletal muscle cells that are important for generating the energy that is necessary for contraction of the muscle. The most common symptom of the metabolic myopathies is easy tiring of muscles andmuscle cramps.

Miscellaneous diseases

  • Reduced saliva. Saliva facilitates swallowing by acting as lubrication for the bolus. Some medications, diseases (for example, Sjogren's syndrome), and radiation therapy to the head and neck that affects the salivary glands, all reduce the production of saliva, and can cause dysphagia, though usually it is mild.
  • Alzheimer's disease
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/9/2016

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