Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing)
Dysphagia is a condition that can happen to us at any age but is most common among older adults. People with dysphagia have a problem swallowing food or liquids from the mouth and throat down into the stomach. This condition is usually temporary and is rarely linked to a more serious disease, such as a tumor or neurological disorder. However, if the problem does not clear up by itself in a short period of time, it is important to seek medical care. The physicians for CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat have the experience to assist you or a family member with this condition.
Common Causes Of Dysphagia Include:
- Unhealthy teeth leading to inadequate chewing of the food bolus prior to swallowing
- Age-related muscle weakness
- Dentures that do not fit properly
- The common cold
- Pharyngitis (sore throat)
- Gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn)
- Foreign body or food lodged in the swallowing passages
To diagnose the cause of a swallowing disorder, it may be necessary for our doctors to perform a fiber-optic endoscopic laryngoscopy. In some cases, a barium swallow or modified barium swallow with a speech therapist present or evaluation by a gastroenterologist will be recommended instead. The fiber-optic endoscopic laryngoscopy involves topical numbing spray in the nose followed by the use of a small tube that runs through the patient’s nose and into the throat. A barium swallow is an X-ray with contrast to see the shape and structures of the back of the tongue, throat, and esophagus during the swallowing process. Neither test is painful or to be avoided due to anxiety. Once the cause of the swallowing problem is determined, an effective treatment plan can be created.
Treatment Options For Swallowing Disorders
Medication – Muscle relaxants, antacids, antihistamines and other drugs can provide relief, depending on the cause of the swallowing disorder.
Swallowing Therapy – Exercises can help stimulate nerves that trigger the swallowing reflex and techniques can be taught to help patients feed themselves more efficiently with less risk of aspiration into the lungs, which can cause pneumonia.
Surgery – If a physical narrowing or blockage exists in the throat or esophagus, due to scar tissue, inflammation, or growth, a biopsy or surgical stretching or removal may be necessary.