Presbyesophagus is a term used to describe an abnormal shape of the swallowing tube (esophagus) that occurs in some individuals. In this situation, the esophagus appears wavier than a typically straight esophagus. This change may impact esophageal movement (motility). The term presbyesophagus (presby is Latin for old) was originally used to describe a change in esophagus movement related to aging even though there has been limited evidence that aging by itself causes trouble swallowing.
Some people with presbyesophagus have trouble swallowing liquids or solids or have heartburn. A sensation of food being stuck or slow to pass through the esophagus is often described. Many people, however, experience no symptoms at all.
The cause is unknown, but may be related to the difference in esophageal shape causing abnormal muscle movements (motility).
Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination and use a variety of tests to determine the cause of your swallowing problem. These tests could include a barium swallow x-ray, an upper endoscopy (EGD), or an esophageal motility test (manometry).
The treatment options for presbyesophagus will be based on the severity of your symptoms. Treatments may include:
Contact your doctor if you are regularly having difficulty in swallowing. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department if an obstruction causes an inability to swallow or interferes with breathing.