Pain or Difficulty in Swallowing: Diseases of Esophagus

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Generally almost all of the diseases or disorders of esophagus results in either pain while swallowing (odynophagia) or difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia). Difficulty while swallowing is more common than pain while swallowing.

Difficulty while swallowing might be for type of food like solids, semi solids or liquids. This relationship of type of food and difficulty while swallowing can point towards certain disorders of esophagus.

The progression of symptoms, in this case dysphagia is also an important thing to take into consideration. Progressive dysphagia starting from solid foods, then semi solids and then to liquid food is typical of various esophageal disorders.

Presence or absence of constitutional symptoms like fever, weight loss or loss of appetite may point towards a serious disorder. Occupation and social history may contribute towards the final diagnosis of the disease.
The best initial test to come to final diagnosis for disease of esophagus is barium swallow or barium esophagram. If the results show clear signs of obstruction this should be followed by upper endoscopy.

Below are few esophageal disorders which might result in difficulty in swallowing. Each disorder is discussed in detail in separate articles.

These diseases might be associated with difficulty in swallowing or even pain while swallowing. Tests like barium swallow; upper endoscopy and manometry are done apart from taking proper history and understanding signs and symptoms of disease. Some of the disease may also be associated with chest pain like diffuse esophageal spasm which can be difficult to diagnose
The esophageal disorders even if when it is not cancer might be associated with weight loss, just because patients find it difficult to eat due to pain and difficulty swallowing rather than decrease in appetite.

Previous drug history or tolerance to cold, anemia, personality disorder like bulimia, forced vomiting, retching may give an important clue for coming to the final conclusion as to what is the reason for esophageal discomfort.

This article was to give a general overview of esophageal disorders and disease which can cause difficulty or pain while swallowing. Each esophageal disorder is discussed in detail in a separate post.