What is Dysphagia or Trouble Swallowing?
Trouble swallowing or Dysphagia is a condition that renders it difficult to pass food from your mouth to your stomach. It is usually caused because of some other condition that affects the function of your throat or esophagus. Common in older adults as well as babies, the condition is usually temporary and with proper medical attention from an otolaryngologist, you can expect quick and effective relief.
If you or a loved one has been experiencing the symptoms of trouble swallowing, do not hesitate to call us at 440-352-1474 to set up an appointment with a board-certified ENT Doctor in Concord, Willoughby, or Madison.
What Causes Trouble Swallowing?
Swallowing starts with oral preparation or chewing with the help of saliva. Your tongue propels the chewed food or ingested liquid down your throat (pharynx) and into your esophagus, from where it goes to your stomach. The muscles in your throat and esophagus squeeze to allow for swallowing. If these muscles are not working right or if something is blocking your throat and esophagus, you may experience trouble swallowing.
GERD is among the foremost causes of dsyphagia, which results from the stomach acids making their way up into your esophagus and pharynx, causing discomfort, inflammation, ulcers and scars. Your esophagus may become narrower and you may find it hard to swallow. Some other conditions that can lead to trouble swallowing are as follows:
- Scleroderma (hardening and narrowing of your esophagus)
- Esophageal spasm
- Immune system disorders
- Poor teeth
- Ill fitting dentures
- Common cold
- Thyroid problems
- Esophagits or inflammation of the esophagus
- Progressive neurologic disorder like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
- Lymph nodes or bone spurs pressing on your esophagus
- Paralyzed vocal cord
- A tumor in your mouth, throat or esophagus
- Inflammation resulting from surgery in head, neck, pharynx or esophagus
- Dry mouth
- Medications such as Nitrates, Anti-depressants, Calcium tablets, Aspirin, Iron tablets, Vitamin C, Tetracycline and Antipsychotic drugs
What are the Symptoms of Trouble Swallowing?
Following are some common symptoms of trouble swallowing:
- Gagging or Choking when ingesting liquid or food
- Difficulty getting food or liquid down on your first try
- Feeling of food stuck in throat
- Painful swallowing
- Pain or discomfort in your chest and throat caused by acid reflux
- Hoarseness or change in voice
- Food or liquid coming back up your throat (regurgitation)
- A lump in the throat
- Weight loss or nutritional deficiencies resulting from food avoidance
- Coughing caused by liquid, food or saliva not properly swallowed and sucked into the lungs
What are the Risk Factors for Trouble Swallowing?
If you have certain neurological disorders that affect the performance of your esophagus and pharynx, you are likely to develop trouble swallowing. Your eating habits may also lead to Dysphagia. Hectic lifestyle, speed eating and failing to chew your food properly can cause swallowing difficulties.
When Should I see a Doctor?
If you have been experiencing swallowing problems for a few days with or without any particular causal factor, you should consult an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor. He/she can help you identify the root cause leading to your swallowing disorder and get you appropriate treatment.
How is Swallowing Trouble Diagnosed?
Your ENT specialist may use following diagnostic measures to accurately diagnose your trouble swallowing:
- Your doctor may ask you for a detailed history of your swallowing problems and other symptoms
- A comprehensive physical exam of your mouth and throat with the help of mirrors
- Fiber optic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing or FEES may be carried out with the help of a flexible laryngoscope (a small flexible tube inserted through your nose)
- Examination of your esophagus or Trans Nasal Esophagoscopy (TNE) may also be performed
- X-Rays of your neck and chest may be helpful
- Biopsy to check for inflammation or cancer in your throat and esophagus may sometimes be necessary
How is Swallowing Trouble Treated?
Depending on the particular cause of your swallowing trouble, your doctor may recommend following treatment options:
- If GERD, LPR, acid reflux or Esophagits is causing your Dysphagia, antacids may be prescribed
- Direct swallowing therapy can help better coordinate your swallowing muscle and stimulate the nerves responsible for swallowing, with the help of simple exercises
- A myotomy or dilating/stretching of your throat or esophagus through surgery, may be necessary in some cases
- If a tumor or some other physical blocking is causing your Dysphagia, surgery to remove it, may offer effective relief
Trouble Swallowing or Dysphagia may lead to serious and long-standing complications. Right diagnosis and timely Dysphagia treatment is essential. If you or a loved one has been experiencing the symptoms of trouble swallowing, do not hesitate to call us at 440-352-1474 to set up an appointment with a board-certified ENT Doctor in Concord, Willoughby, or Madison.
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