Dysphagia is the medical term for problems with swallowing, usually involving an issue with the throat or esophagus. There are many potential causes of dysphagia, which include gastroesophageal reflux, trauma, birth defects, neurological disease and tumors.
Treatment of dysphagia frequently requires coordinated care from an ENT doctor, gastroenterologist and speech and swallow therapist.
What Are the Symptoms of Dysphagia?
When we swallow, food or liquid is carried from the mouth through the pharynx and esophagus into the stomach, where it is digested. This is a mostly involuntary process, one that requires little thought. But when something goes wrong, food or liquid can become stuck or lodged in the throat, chest, or sternum.
Swallowing becomes painful or difficult, and may be accompanied by choking, coughing, gagging, drooling, regurgitation, or hoarseness. Other symptoms might include chest pain, heartburn, belching, sore throat, and weight loss.
A number of conditions can cause dysphagia. Children may suffer from congenital defects or physical deformations, or conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. In adults, neuromuscular disorders, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stroke, smoking, alcohol, and poor teeth can all lead to swallowing difficulties.
How Is Dysphagia Treated?
How a swallowing disorder is treated depends on the cause, and typically involves medications, swallowing exercises, or surgery. Lifestyle changes often work in patients whose dysphagia results from GERD; avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods, and eating smaller, more frequent meals may be enough to prevent acid reflux and the resultant swallowing difficulties from occurring.
Patients with severe swallowing difficulties may be hospitalized and fed intravenously to ensure they don’t become malnourished and lose excess weight.
Chewing your food slowly and thoroughly is the best way to prevent dysphagia.
Call Camino Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic at (408) 227-6300 for more information or to schedule an appointment.