What is Trouble Swallowing (Dysphagia)?
Dysphagia refers to difficulty swallowing. It is characterized by taking longer and more effort to get food or liquid from your mouth into your stomach. Dysphagia is sometimes painful. Sometimes swallowing becomes difficult.
A few instances of difficulty swallowing, such as if you eat too quickly or don’t chew well enough, are not usually a cause for concern. Persistent dysphagia is a serious medical condition that requires treatment.
Dysphagia may occur at any age but is more common among older people. Treatment depends on the cause of your swallowing difficulties.
Symptoms of Trouble Swallowing (Dysphagia)
Dysphagia symptoms can include:
- When swallowing, pain
- Inability to swallow
- The sensation that food is stuck in your throat, chest, or behind your breastbone (sternum)
- Regurgitation: Food being brought back up
- Heartburn is a common problem
- Maggot acid or food backing up into the throat
- Weight loss
- Gagging or coughing when swallowing
Causes of Trouble Swallowing (Dysphagia)
Swallowing involves complex muscles and nerves. Dysphagia can be caused by any condition that weakens, damages, or narrows the throat or esophagus. Dysphagia falls generally into one of these categories:
- Esophageal dysphagia – The sensation that food sticks or gets stuck in your throat or chest after you swallow something is called esophageal dysphagia
- Oropharyngeal dysphagia – Some conditions can make it more difficult to move food from your mouth to your throat and esophagus. When you swallow, you might feel choking, irritable, or nauseous. This could lead to pneumonia.
Treatment Options May Include:
There are many diagnostic tests that can be used to diagnose swallowing disorders. The most common tests for swallowing disorders include:
- Flexible laryngoscopy is performed by a Century ENT provider. This involves placing a small scope into your nose to examine your throat and vocal cords.
- Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES): This test is performed by a speech therapist. It involves inserting a camera into the nose and then feeding dyed liquids to your mouth to assess how well you swallow. Your provider will also check to see if food is entering your airway (aspiration) during the test.
- Modified Barium Swallow: A speech therapist will give you different foods and liquids during this test. Barium is a liquid that tastes minty or pasty and will cover the food. Barium can be used to view images of your mouth and throat on X-rays. While you are swallowing, the speech therapist will instruct you on how to chew and swallow. The radiologist will also take X-ray images.
- Esophagram: This test involves you drinking barium and having your esophagus photographed by radiologists.
Esophagoduodenoscopy or upper endoscopy is a test that involves a healthcare provider, a gastroenterologist (GI), who inserts a scope into your throat. The scope will continue down your throat and into your stomach. This test can be used to detect any narrowing, tumors, or Barrett’s Esophagus
The cause and severity of difficulty swallowing depend on the individual. Your treatment might include:
- Antibiotics Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics for bacterial tonsillitis ( Strep throat).
- Lifestyle and medication changes: The treatment for GERD is a combination of drugs to treat acid reflux. Your doctor might recommend that you change your eating and diet habits.
- Other medical treatment options