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Swallowing Disorders

About swallowing disorders

There are some certain diseases and conditions that can lead to swallowing problems:

  • Acid reflux and tumors that reduce the esophageal passageway
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke that damages digestive muscle function
  • Achalasia, the loss of ability of the esophagus to move food to the stomach and problems with the muscular valve between them failing to fully relax

Swallowing problems may be masked for a time by choosing meals that are easier to consume and eating more slowly than usual. But patients should visit a gastroenterologist specializing in swallowing difficulties if they experience:

  • Frequent choking on food
  • Delays in swallowing food (if food is delayed or blocked in the esophagus for more than 15 minutes, seek immediate medical attention)
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Recurring pneu​monia

Acting on achalasia


Achalasia is the most common motility disorder (muscle contraction) of the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling like food is getting stuck on the way down
  • Chest pain and heartburn
  • Regurgitation
  • Weight loss

For patients whose achalasia is impacting quality of life, there are multiple treatment options, including peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM), an innovative, incision-free procedure to treat achalasia and other swallowing disorders. Compared to traditional surgery for achalasia, POEM may offer patients:

  • Little to no pain after surgery
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Faster return to a normal diet

Specialized centers

Baylor Scott & White Health's specialized centers can help pinpoint digestive disease causes and get you started on a path of optimal digestive health.​

  • The Endoscopy Center

The Endoscopy Center

The Endoscopy Center at Baylor University Medical Center, part of Baylor Scott & White Health, features gastroenterologists, interventional endoscopists, laryngologists, esophageal surgeons and thoracic surgeons on the Baylor University Medical Center staff who have focused expertise in diagnosing and treating disorders of the esophagus, including symptoms of acid reflux disease, Barrett’s esophagus and difficulty swallowing disorders.

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