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Treating Dysphagia

Couple making a smoothie.
Blend foods to make them easier to eat.

An evaluation helps your healthcare provider find the cause of your trouble swallowing. This condition is called dysphagia. Your evaluation may include a health history and some special tests. Your provider will make a treatment plan based on the results of your evaluation. You may need to take medicines. In some cases, your provider may advise a procedure to stretch or widen your esophagus (esophageal dilation). Or your provider may advise surgery.

What you can do

To help control dysphagia, follow your treatment plan. Take all medicines as directed. You also can help reduce your symptoms by being careful about what and how you eat.


You may need medicines, such as those that:

  • Reduce or neutralize stomach acids

  • Control esophagus muscle spasms

  • Treat an allergic disorder of the esophagus that is causing the problem

  • Are injected into the esophagus to help symptoms

Esophageal dilation

Dilation is a procedure that your provider can use to widen your esophagus. It is most often done when a narrowing (stricture) of the esophagus is causing the problem. There are many ways your provider can widen your esophagus. He or she can discuss them with you.

Eating tips

  • Eat slowly in a relaxed setting.

  • Don’t talk while you eat.

  • Take small bites. Chew slowly and thoroughly.

  • Sit upright during and after meals.

  • Ask your provider about any special diets that may help, such as liquid diets.

  • If you have trouble swallowing solid foods, you can use a blender to mash or purée them.

  • Thicken liquids with milk, juice, broth, gravy, or starch. This can make swallowing easier.

Your healthcare provider may advise that you see a speech therapist or occupational therapist. These specialists in dysphagia may give you exercises and instructions to help you eat safely.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jen Lehrer MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
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