Dysphagia is the term the medical profession uses for a collection of eating and swallowing problems. They fall into three classifications. Oral dysphagia is in the mouth, pharyngeal dysphagia is in the throat, and esophageal dysphagia is located in the esophagus. This third form of dysphagia most often causes a need for surgery.
Signs That Something Is Wrong
Some signs that a person has dysphagia include problems with eating or drinking that include coughing and choking or even vomiting, persistent saliva drooling, food coming back up (including through the nose), and a feeling of food that is stuck in the throat or there is a blockage in the throat or chest.
Heartburn and acid backing up into the throat are inconvenient and signs of trouble. When it becomes hard to chew food, control it in the mouth, or start to swallow it, there is a problem. Hoarseness, sore throat, and frequent bouts of pneumonia are other danger signs.
When a collection of symptoms such as those above happens, it is time to see the family doctor for tests, diagnosis, and treatment. The earlier this problem is detected, the better the prognosis for treatment success.
Is There Treatment or A Cure for Dysphagia?
The treatment options and possibility of a cure depend on the type of dysphagia and how soon it is diagnosed and treated.
Some of the causes of dysphagia include nervous system problems such as stroke, dementia, or head injury, cancer of the mouth or esophagus, developmental or learning disabilities, or GORD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease), and aging.
Treatments are available that help but a cure is not always possible. Several types of treatments can help.
Therapy to learn new ways to swallow food and drink.
Avoiding foods that trigger the condition and changing the consistency of food and liquids to make them easier to swallow. Products such as Simply Thick can be added to the drink or food and stirred to make food easier to swallow. Patients can be taught to eat more, smaller meals of approved foods and to take smaller bites and chew foods longer. Patients should avoid smoking and alcohol consumption.
There are medications that reduce symptoms. Some of them include Parkinson’s medication, proton pump inhibitors, GERD medications, H2 blockers, and others.
The most invasive treatment method is surgery. Surgery can be used to remove obstructions and tumors from the throat or esophagus, inserting feeding tubes, widening a constricted esophagus by inserting a balloon and inflating it, inserting plastic or metal stents to hold an esophagus open, and more. One surgery involves removing severely damaged parts of the esophagus or cancerous areas and then reattaching the remaining esophagus to the stomach.
Though a total cure for dysphagia may not be possible, the symptoms can be treated. Lifestyle changes such as careful choices of food and drink, avoiding smoking and alcohol, taking the appropriate medication for the type of dysphagia you have, and having surgery if it is indicated can make the condition less serious. Food choices may involve switching to a soft or liquid diet and avoiding sticky foods such as jam or peanut butter.
It is important to go to the doctor promptly when this condition starts and follow any treatment instructions carefully. There is hope for a long, enjoyable life with proper care.