Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing)

When you have difficulty swallowing foods or liquids, you are suffering from a medical condition known as dysphagia. This can have an adverse effect on your health, especially if symptoms are so severe you become malnourished.

Causes of Dysphagia

Swallowing problems involve more than just the ability to transfer foods and liquids from your mouth to your stomach. You may experience a host of other symptoms, including choking on food, pain when swallowing, excessive throat clearing, hiccups, chest pain, weight loss, and pneumonia (which could be the result of food or liquids entering the lungs rather than the esophagus).

Dysphagia can be caused by a number of problems. These range from physical obstructions in the throat and esophagus to acid reflux (GERD), nervous system disorders, congenital deformities, and tumors.

Left untreated, you could suffer from malnutrition, dehydration, and dangerous weight loss.

What are the Kinds of Dysphagia?

There are two kinds of Dysphagia:

Esophageal Dysphagia – Esophageal dysphagia is caused by the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach, being damaged. Common symptoms of esophageal dysphagia include:

  • Weight loss
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Pain in the chest after swallowing
  • Excessive coughing in the middle of the night
  • Nausea after swallowing

Oropharyngeal Dysphagia – Oropharyngeal dysphagia is caused by an abnormality affecting the throat or mouth. Symptoms of oropharyngeal dysphagia include:

  • Taking a long time to chew food
  • Getting food stuck in the throat often
  • Drooling
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Difficulty breathing while eating
  • Frequent coughing while eating

Treatment & Prevention

Webster Wellness will give you a thorough physical exam and likely administer tests to help pinpoint the cause of your swallowing disorder. Endoscopy, barium esophagram, or a swallow study may be used to evaluate you further.

Treatment varies depending on the type of swallowing problem you have and what is causing it. Often, the condition is temporary and will disappear on its own. Other times, you may need to try different techniques like sitting upright while eating, cutting food into small pieces and chewing it slowly and thoroughly, and drinking plenty of fluids. You may require therapy to learn improved swallowing techniques through exercises. Medications or surgery may be an option, and in severe cases, a liquid diet might be necessary.