Many conditions can cause swallowing issues, known as dysphagia. These include neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. They also include brain injuries, strokes, and panic disorders.
Several pharmaceuticals, such as antidepressants and immunosuppressants, can also reduce people’s swallowing ability.
Some people refer to dysphagia as “forgetting how to swallow.” However, swallowing difficulties do not necessarily arise from memory issues — many causes of dysphagia are not psychological.
Anyone can experience swallowing difficulties from time to time. However, recurrent swallowing issues could be a cause for concern.
This article looks at some of the reasons why people develop swallowing problems. It discusses dysphagia that arises from neurological conditions, brain dysfunction, mental health issues, and more.
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)
- multiple system atrophy (MSA)
- spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA)
- Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
- corticobasal degeneration
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- primary lateral sclerosis
- muscular dystrophy
These conditions are neurodegenerative diseases. They involve the deterioration of brain cells, nerves, and other neurological structures.
This can make it more difficult for the brain to send signals to the muscles which control swallowing, causing dysphagia.
Cerebral palsy, which is not a neurodegenerative condition, can also cause swallowing problems.
When the brain undergoes certain changes, there is the potential for brain dysfunction. This occurs when a change in the brain’s structure reduces its capacity to process information or send signals to other body parts.
According to the same
According to a 2016 study, traumatic brain injuries and strokes tend to cause
Some mental health conditions can also lead to dysphagia.
The study found that for many of these people, anxiety about swallowing was responsible for their dysphagia. In turn, this anxiety developed from several possible mental health issues:
There is also evidence that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can cause dysphagia. For instance, a 2020 case report discusses an individual whose depression and OCD contributed to significant swallowing difficulties.
Besides the above conditions, there are many other potential causes of dysphagia. According to the aforementioned 2023 review, these include the following:
- muscular dystrophy, a condition that causes the muscles to slowly weaken
- polymyositis, a condition that causes inflammation and degeneration of the muscles
- enlarged thyroid
- tumors around the neck or throat
- abscesses around the neck or throat
- aortic aneurism, a swelling of the main artery that carries blood to the abdomen
- spasms of the esophagus (food pipe)
- injury to the esophagus
- rheumatoid arthritis
Furthermore, certain medications can induce dysphagia. These include:
Dysphagia can indicate a serious underlying health issue. It could also mean that a change in medication may be necessary.
Therefore, anyone with swallowing difficulties should seek a doctor’s advice.
Dysphagia is not necessarily forgetting how to swallow. Rather, it is when someone experiences regular difficulties swallowing solids, liquids, or both. This can arise for many different reasons.
For instance, several neurological conditions can cause dysphagia. These include MS, ALS, and AD. Brain issues such as strokes, tumors, and injury can also lead to dysphagia. Mental health conditions such as panic disorder and OCD can also cause swallowing difficulties.
Other causes of dysphagia include oesophageal issues, an enlarged thyroid, and tumors in the throat or neck. Medications and recreational drugs, including alcohol, can also reduce a person’s ability to swallow.