What is Dysphagia?
Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties. This means that people suffering with dysphagia take more time or have problems swallowing certain foods and liquids, while others can’t swallow at all. It may also be associated with pain and in some cases, swallowing may be impossible due to the pain.
Signs Of Dysphagia
Signs of dysphagia include:
Coughing or choking when eating or drinking
Bringing food back up, sometimes through the nose
A sensation that food is stuck in your throat or chest
Being unable to chew properly
Gurgly wet sounding voice when eating or drinking
Over time, other symptoms of dysphagia can include weight loss and repeated chest infection.
What Causes It?
Dysphagia is usually caused by other underlying health conditions. These generally are conditions that affect the nervous system, such as stroke, head injuries or dementia. Certain types of cancer, gastro reflux diseases, and learning disabilities can cause people to have varying levels of dysphagia.
Whilst anyone can be affected by dysphagia, there is an increased risk in older people whose muscles tend to be weaker, or who may suffer from other medical conditions.
Are There Different Types Of Dysphagia?
The location of the cause will determine the type of dysphagia diagnosed.
Generally, there are two types; high and low dysphagia.
High dysphagia refers to problems in the mouth and throat, whereas, other problems further down are known
Problems in the mouth and throat are known as ‘high’ dysphagia. Whereas, other problems further down in the oesophagus are known as ‘low’ dysphagia.
You can find our more information about these two different types of dysphagia, here.
How Is It Treated?
As with any medical condition, treatment for dysphagia varies according to the type and cause of the swallowing disorder, as well as its severity.
This can range from simple exercises that help to coordinate the swallowing muscles or re-stimulate the nerves that trigger the swallowing reflex, to the insertion of a special tube to open and stretch the oesophagus. There are also medications available that can reduce stomach acid as well as surgical procedures.
In the most severe cases, a special liquid diet may be recommended or a feeding tube that bypasses the part of the swallowing mechanism that isn’t working properly.