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Causes

As swallowing is a complex process, there are many reasons why dysphagia can develop.

There are 2 main types of dysphagia, caused by problems with the:

Some causes of dysphagia are explained here.

Neurological causes

Damage to the nervous system (in the brain and spinal cord) can interfere with the nerves responsible for starting and controlling swallowing.

Some neurological causes of dysphagia include:

Congenital and developmental conditions

The term "congenital" refers to something you're born with. Developmental conditions affect the way you develop.

Congenital or developmental conditions that may cause dysphagia include: 

Obstruction

Conditions that cause an obstruction in the throat or a narrowing of the oesophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to the stomach) can make swallowing difficult.

Some causes of obstruction and narrowing include:

Muscular conditions

Any condition that affects the muscles used to push food down the oesophagus and into the stomach can cause dysphagia, although such conditions are rare.

Two muscular conditions associated with dysphagia are:

Other causes

The muscles used for swallowing can become weaker with age. This may explain why dysphagia is relatively common in elderly people.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a collection of lung conditions that make it difficult to breathe properly. Breathing difficulties can sometimes affect your ability to swallow.

Dysphagia can also sometimes develop as a complication of head or neck surgery.