The process of swallowing involves several steps. These include
- Chewing food
- Moving it into the back of the mouth
- Moving it down the esophagus (the tube that moves food to the stomach)
There are many nerves that help the muscles of the mouth, throat, and esophagus work together. Much of swallowing occurs without you being aware of what you are doing.
A brain or nerve disorder can alter the workings of the muscles of the mouth and throat.
Swallowing is a complex act. Many nerves work in a fine balance to control how the muscles of the mouth, throat, and esophagus work together. Much of swallowing occurs without you being aware of what you are doing.
A brain or nerve disorder can alter this fine balance in the muscles of the mouth and throat.
- Damage to the brain may be caused by multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, or stroke
- Nerve damage may be due to spinal cord injuries, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), or myasthenia gravis
Stress or anxiety may cause some people to feel tightness in the throat, or feel as if something is stuck in the throat. This is called globus hystericus.
Problems that involve the esophagus often cause swallowing problems. These may include:
- An abnormal ring of tissue that forms where the esophagus and stomach meet (called Schatzki's ring)
- Abnormal spasms of the esophagus muscles
- Cancer of the esophagus
- Failure of the muscle ring at the bottom of the esophagus to relax (Achalasia)
- Scarring that narrows the esophagus. This may be due to radiation, chemicals, medicines, chronic swelling, ulcers, or infection.
- Something stuck in the esophagus, such as a piece of food.
- Scleroderma, a disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the esophagus
- Tumors in the chest that press on the esophagus