What is Dysphagia?
Difficulty swallowing, also called dysphagia, is usually caused by issues in the throat or esophagus. Typically, the muscles in the throat and esophagus contract to move food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. In cases of dysphagia, the muscles and nerves in the throat and esophagus do not work right, or there is a blockage, making it hard for food and liquid to travel to the stomach.
Signs of a swallowing problem may include:
- Frequent choking on food or drink.
- Pain or discomfort when swallowing.
- Being unable to swallow.
- Having a feeling like food is stuck in your throat or chest.
- Coughing or gagging when you swallow.
- Frequent heartburn.
While dysphagia can occur in anyone of any age, it is most common among older adults, babies or those who have problems of the brain or nervous system. There are many different diseases that may lead to swallowing problems, including a stroke or spinal cord injury, certain problems with the nervous system such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, esophageal spasms, GERD, inflammation of the esophagus and more.
How is Dysphagia Diagnosed?
If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms above, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our providers for examination and treatment. During your appointment, your doctor will speak with you about your symptoms as well as your medical history, and perform a physical exam. He or she may also wish to perform some further tests to determine the cause for your dysphagia including X-rays, a dynamic swallowing study, an endoscopy, an esophageal muscle test, imaging scans or more.
Treatment Options for Dysphagia
Overall, treatment for your swallowing problem will depend on the cause. Dysphagia can be categorized into two different groups, including oropharyngeal dysphagia and esophageal dysphagia, which require different treatment plans.
Oropharyngeal Dysphagia Treatment
This type of dysphagia refers to difficulty initiating a swallow, and is caused by a certain condition that has weakened your throat muscles such as a neurological disorder. In these cases, your doctor may refer you to a speech or swallowing therapist. During these therapy sessions, you will learn specific swallowing exercises and techniques to help make swallowing easier.
Esophageal Dysphagia Treatment
This form of dysphagia refers to the feeling of food getting stuck in the base of your throat or chest after you have started to swallow. It can be caused by a number of esophageal conditions, which will determine the course of treatment. Your doctor will work with you to determine the underlying condition causing your esophageal dysphagia and will create a treatment plan that may include medications, surgery or esophageal dilation to help make swallowing more comfortable.
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At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Swallowing Problems (Dysphagia) or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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