Glossary

Achalasia. This occurs when your lower esophageal muscle (sphincter) doesn’t relax properly to let food enter your stomach. Muscles in the wall of your esophagus are often weak as well. This can cause regurgitation of food not yet mixed with stomach contents, sometimes causing you to bring food back up into your throat.

Aging. With age, your esophagus tends to lose some of the muscle strength and coordination needed to push food into your stomach. However, any persistent trouble swallowing needs to be evaluated by your doctor; it’s not necessarily a normal part of aging.

Deglutition is the scientific name for the swallowing process.

Diffuse spasm. This condition produces multiple, high-pressure, poorly coordinated contractions of your esophagus usually after you swallow. Diffuse spasm is a rare disorder that affects the smooth (involuntary) muscles in the walls of your lower esophagus. The contractions often occur intermittently, and may become more severe over a period of years.

Dry Mouth is a condition where the mouth does not produce enough saliva, leading to dryness and discomfort. Dry mouth can be caused by certain diseases, medical treatments, medications and lifestyle choices.

Dysphagia is a medical term that means “difficulty swallowing.” It is the inability of food or liquids to pass easily from the mouth, into the throat, and down into the esophagus to the stomach during the process of swallowing. There are several types of dysphagia.

Esophageal dysphagia: This is the most common type of swallowing difficulties. It refers to the sensation of food sticking or getting hung up in the base of your throat or chest. Common causes of esophageal dysphagia include:

  • Achalasia
  • Aging
  • Diffuse spasm
  • Esophageal stricture
  • Esophageal tumors
  • Foreign bodies
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Pharyngeal diverticula
  • Scleroderma

Oropharyngeal dysphagia: Certain neuromuscular problems can weaken your throat muscles, making it difficult to move food from your mouth into your throat and esophagus (pharyngeal paralysis). You may choke or cough when you attempt to swallow, or have the sensation of food or fluids going down your windpipe (trachea) or up your nose. This may lead to pneumonia. Causes of oropharyngeal dysphagia include:

  • Neurological disorders
  • Neurological damage

Dysphagia in Infants and Children: Common causes of swallowing difficulties in infants and children include:

  • Developmental problems due to premature birth or low birth weight
  • Nervous system disorders, such as cerebral palsy or meningitis
  • Cleft lip or cleft palat

Unexplained Dysphagia: Some people experience dysphagia that has no anatomical cause. Unexplained swallowing difficulties include:

  • Difficulty taking oral medications. Some people can’t seem to swallow pills or tablets, even though they have no other difficulty swallowing.

Lump in your throat (globus). Some people feel the sensation of a foreign body or lump in their throats when, in reality, no foreign body or lump exists. Stress or excitement may worsen this sensation. Oftentimes, resolving the stress alleviates the problem. Actual difficulty swallowing usually isn’t present.

Esophageal stricture. Narrowing of your esophagus (stricture) causes large chunks of food to get caught. Narrowing may result from the formation of scar tissue, often caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or from tumors.

Esophageal tumors. Difficulty swallowing tends to get progressively worse when esophageal tumors are present.

Foreign bodies. Sometimes, food, such as a large piece of meat, or another object can become lodged in your throat or esophagus. Older adults with dentures and people who have difficulty chewing their food properly may be more likely to have an obstruction of the throat or esophagus. Children may swallow small objects, such as swallowing pins, coins, pieces of toys or other small objects that can become stuck. If an obstruction causes an inability to swallow, go to the nearest emergency department immediately. If an obstruction interferes with breathing, call for emergency help immediately.

Flavor: is the sensory impression determined mainly by the chemical senses of taste and smell.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Damage to esophageal tissues from stomach acid backing up (refluxing) into your esophagus can lead to spasm or scarring and narrowing of your lower esophagus, making swallowing difficult. Long-term GERD can sometimes lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the color and composition of the cells lining your lower esophagus change because of repeated exposure to stomach acid.

Geriatrics is the branch of medicine that focuses on health care of the elderly. It aims to promote health and to prevent and treat diseases and disabilities in older adults.

Gustation is the act or sensation of tasting something.

Medication Adherence is the extent to which patients take medications as prescribed by their health care providers. Non-adherence can lead to increased medical costs, hospitalization, premature disability and death.

Medication Compliance means taking the correct amount of a medication, as prescribed by a health care provider, at the correct time. Non-compliance can lead to increased medical costs, hospitalization, premature disability and death.

Multivitamin is a preparation intended to supplement a human diet with vitamins, dietary minerals and other nutritional elements. Such preparations are available in the form of tablets, capsules, pastilles, powders, liquids and injectable formulations.

Neurological disorder. Certain disorders, such as post-polio syndrome, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease, may first be noticed because of oropharyngeal dysphagia.

Neurological damage. Sudden neurological damage, such as from a stroke or brain or spinal cord injury, can cause difficulty swallowing or an inability to swallow

Nutraceuticals refers to natural extracts claimed to have a medicinal effect on human health.

Pediatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents. A medical practitioner who specializes in this area is known as a pediatrician

Pharyngeal diverticula. A small pouch forms and collects food particles in your throat, often just above your esophagus, leading to difficulty swallowing, gurgling sounds, bad breath, and repeated throat clearing or coughing. This disorder is more common as you age.

Scleroderma. This disease is characterized by the development of scar-like tissue, causing stiffening and hardening of tissues. It can weaken your lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid to reflux into your esophagus and causing symptoms and complications similar to those of GERD.

Stroke. the sudden death of brain cells in a localized area due to inadequate blood flow.

Swallowing known scientifically as deglutition, is the process in the human or animal body that makes something pass from the mouth, to the throat, into the esophagus, and on down to the stomach.

Taste refers to the body’s ability to detect the flavor of substances such as food, certain minerals, and poisons.

Vitamin is an organic compound required as a nutrient in tiny amounts by an organism. A compound is called a vitamin when it cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities by an organism, and must be obtained from the diet.