Dysphagia is a medical condition where an individual has difficulty swallowing or passing food down the esophagus into the stomach. With this condition, it takes more effort and time to move liquid or solid food from the mouth to the stomach. In some cases, patients may have pain with swallowing or may find it difficult to pass any food down.
Nearly everyone has occasional trouble with swallowing, especially when food is not chewed correctly, or you eat a meal too fast. This is not a concern, in itself. However, if the dysphagia persists, it is best to seek medical help to get a diagnosis and treatment. While dysphagia can occur at any age, it is more common in older adults.
Many symptoms may occur with dysphagia. We’ll provide a list below:
If you find that you are regularly having difficulty with swallowing, you should speak to a gastroenterologist. You should also visit a doctor if vomiting, weight loss, or regurgitation occur with your dysphagia. If you have something stuck in your throat that is causing trouble with breathing, you should immediately seek emergency help. If you cannot swallow because it feels like food is stuck in your throat, visit a nearby emergency room.
It is likely your gastroenterologist will conduct a physical and then use additional testing to determine what is causing the swallowing problem. Tests may include the following:
Treatment will depend on which type of swallowing problem you have. With oropharyngeal dysphagia, you may be referred to a swallowing or speech therapist. Conventional treatment includes doing exercises to coordinate the swallowing muscles or stimulate the nerves triggering the natural swallowing reflex.
When it comes to esophageal dysphagia, treatment might include dilation of the esophagus, which helps to stretch the width of the esophagus. Sometimes stents can also be placed in the esophagus to treat blockages. For complex motility disorders of the esophagus such as achalasia, endoscopic procedures such as POEM may be therapeutic.
Are you interested in learning more about dysphagia or other swallowing disorders? We invite you to contact us to learn more. Dr. Prashant Kedia is a therapeutic endoscopist and gastroenterologist serving patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and beyond. Call today to schedule an appointment at (214) 941-6891.