Dysphagia/Swallowing Disorder What is Dysphagia? Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is a condition that can be brought on by many different causes. And symptoms can vary widely. Some people with dysphasia may have minor irritation when swallowing, while others may have difficulty swallowing liquids alone, certain types of foods, or even their own saliva. In severe cases, dysphagia can make swallowing impossible. For people with dysphasia, eating can become a major and sometimes impossible effort. The condition can have a major impact on quality of life. And for people who can’t take in enough calories and fluids to nourish the body and maintain a healthy weight, dysphasia can become a very serious problem. How Swallowing Works Food or drink is taken into the mouth and pushed by the tongue into the back of the mouth, toward the upper part of the throat. The food moves down the throat as various muscles briefly shut off breathing, direct the food or drink away from the airway leading to the lungs, and then guide it into the esophagus. Food reaches a sphincter muscle at the top of the esophagus that works like a one-way valve of sorts to allow food to enter the esophagus. Then it moves down through the esophagus to another valve in the lower esophagus. The value opens to lets food enter the stomach, then closes again to prevent stomach acid from getting into the esophagus.