Problems with the esophagus that make it difficult to swallow include scleroderma, esophageal spasm, esophagitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease and esophageal tumors, according to WebMD. Masses outside of the esophagus including lymph nodes, tumors and bone spurs also cause difficulty swallowing.
Scleroderma is a condition that causes the esophageal tissues to become hard and narrow, states WebMD. This condition affects the nerves and muscles that move food through the throat, stunting the movement of food. Scleroderma sometimes affects the lower muscles of the esophagus as well, causing food and stomach acid to back up in the throat and mouth. An esophageal spasm is a condition that causes the muscles of the esophagus to squeeze abruptly, keeping food from passing through the esophagus.
Esophagitis is an inflammation of the esophagus and is caused by another condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or allergies, explains WebMD. Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD causes stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. With repeated exposure to stomach acid, the formation of ulcers and scarring in the esophagus occurs, causing the esophagus to become more narrow and making swallowing more difficult. Esophageal tumors are abnormal growths that occur in the esophagus and may be cancerous or benign. Dry mouth can make it more difficult to swallow among individuals who have an esophageal condition.