Dysphagia can be serious. Someone who cannot swallow well may not be able to eat enough of the right foods to stay healthy or maintain an ideal weight.
Sometimes, when foods or liquids enter the windpipe of a person who has dysphagia, coughing or throat clearing cannot remove it. Food or liquid that stays in the windpipe may enter the lungs and create a chance for harmful bacteria to grow. A serious infection (aspiration pneumonia) can result.
Swallowing disorders may also include the development of a pocket outside the esophagus caused by weakness in the esophageal wall. This abnormal pocket traps some food being swallowed. While lying down or sleeping, a person with this problem may draw undigested food into the pharynx. The esophagus may be too narrow, causing food to stick. This food may prevent other food or even liquids from entering the stomach.