Swallowing difficulties, aka dysphagia, can originate from a variety of reasons, meaning that the condition itself is usually treated as a symptom. However, several subdivisions and signs have been associated with the various forms of dysphagia over time. A brief look at the common causes, symptoms and possible solutions should provide a better understanding.
Symptoms or Signs of Dysphagia
A single patient may exhibit several of the symptoms associated with dysphagia, as listed below:
- Odynophagia, or painful swallowing
- Unstimulated drooling
- Frequent regurgitation of food and stomach acid, usually accompanied by frequent heartburn
- An uncharacteristically raspy voice
- Complete or partial inability to swallow
- Mild choking sensations with the feeling of food stuck somewhere in the middle
- Frequent choking, coughing, and gagging episodes while eating or drinking
- Substantial weight loss
- Subconscious or conscious aversion towards eating
Causes of Dysphagia
Dysphagia itself is a symptom of several potential diseases and conditions. Therefore, a proper medical diagnosis is necessary to diagnose what a particular patient’s reason(s) for experiencing swallowing difficulties could be. Nonetheless, several causes have been identified over the years and thus, a list of possible causes would include:
- Achalasia, aka, inadequate relaxation of a tight sphincter
- Esophageal stricture caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Tumors, cysts, and scar tissue (scleroderma) blocking the way
- Food allergies resulting in eosinophilic esophagitis, aka, oversaturation of eosinophils
- Diffuse spastic disorders of the esophagus that interferes with peristalsis
In some instances, cancer treatment with radiation therapy can also lead to dysphagia. This is a special condition, marked by esophageal inflammation and, in worst-case scenarios, permanent scarring of the esophagus.
To treat dysphagia, it is necessary to diagnose the cause first. Diagnostic tests to confirm the problem may include, but are not limited to, anyone or several of the following:
- Barium X-ray
- The dynamic barium swallow test
- CT scan
- MRI scan
Irrespective of whether the diagnosed problem turns out to be treatable or manageable, most swallowing difficulties can be alleviated to a great extent with SimplyThick food and drink thickeners. Seniors and other aged generations exhibit signs of dysphagia the most, and food thickeners play a critical role today in managing geriatric dysphagia without the need for feeding tubes.
As for the underlying cause itself, a treatment plan would be devised and presented by the attending medical practitioner(s), depending on the cause. Some of the usual solutions suggested by physicians are:
- Esophageal dilation to treat achalasia and esophageal stricture
- Surgical removal of scar tissue and tumor(s)
- Surgery to remove the pouch in case of Pharyngoesophageal diverticulum disorders
- Oropharyngeal dysphagia therapy, the teaching of swallowing techniques, and specialized exercises that stimulate the natural swallowing process in Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s patients
- Smooth muscle relaxants alleviate the symptoms of esophageal diffuse spasm induced dysphagia
- Prescription corticosteroids can manage Eosinophilic esophagitis.
Here, you should note that aging is not a requirement for developing symptoms of dysphagia, so consult a physician immediately on experiencing swallowing difficulties on a regular basis. This applies irrespective of one’s age, along with the suggestions previously made.