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What is Dysphagia?
Dysphagia is a term used to describe someone’s inability or difficulty to swallow food or liquid. There are several reasons why someone might experience dysphagia. It might be due to muscle spasms, because they didn’t chew their food well enough, or other internal issues. Dysphagia can also refer to the sensation of food being stuck in the neck or chest.
What Causes Dysphagia?
There are two different types of dysphagia and the cause is unique for both types.
Oropharyngeal dysphagia is difficulty starting a swallow. Neuromuscular causes are more common with this type of dysphagia. This is due to the fact that the muscles of the mouth, back of your throat, and upper esophagus have direct connections with the brain and these nerves can be damaged causing complications.
Sometimes strictures (narrowed areas in the esophagus), or tumors growing in the back of the throat can cause you to have a hard time swallowing.
Esophageal dysphagia has many various causes, some of the most common being:
- Scarring in the esophagus from acid reflux (GERD)
- Inflammation in the esophagus from acid reflux
- Lack of esophageal muscle strength
- Achalasia (when the lower esophageal sphincter can’t relax during swallowing due to abnormal nerve control
- Spasms in the esophagus
- Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE)
- Blockage by a foreign body in the esophagus
What Are The Symptoms Of Dysphagia?
The most common symptoms and signs of dysphagia include:
- Inability to swallow
- Sensation of food being stuck in your throat or chest
- Pain while swallowing
- Unwanted weight loss
- Coughing or gagging while swallowing
- Acid reflux
- Food or liquid regurgitate through your nose
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Food impaction (food getting stuck)
- Chest Pain
Schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist today if you experience any combination of the above symptoms regularly. It is important to see your doctor if weight loss, or vomiting accompanies your difficulty swallowing.
What Are The Treatments For Dysphagia?
The most common treatments for dysphagia include:
- Learning exercises to re-stimulate nerves that trigger the swallowing reflex
- Learn different swallowing techniques
- Esophageal dilation
- Medications to reduce acid reflux, corticosteroids, or muscle relaxants
- Special liquid diet or feeding tube for severe cases