Did you know that all age groups are affected with swallowing disorders at some point in their lives? The medical term for this is dysphagia, and while it is prevalent among the children and elderly, it can sometimes be a symptom of a severe disease or problem in middle age adults.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the swallowing process and how your doctor might recognize a swallowing disorder in his patient.
Stages of Swallowing
* Oral Preparation Stage – This stage is when you chew your food in preparation for swallowing it.
* Oral Stage – This stage is when your tongue preps your food to head down the throat.
* Pharyngeal Stage – As ingested food or liquid moves past the pharynx and into the esophagus.
* Esophageal Phase – The final stage of swallowing in which food travels down the esophagus to the stomach.
You may experience trouble swallowing at any of these four stages in the swallowing process. Trouble swallowing can also manifest a specific set of symptoms that your care provider will ask you to identify.
Symptoms of Dysphagia
For people who have trouble swallowing, these symptoms may present as a feeling that food or liquid is getting stuck in the throat, or a deep discomfort in the chest while swallowing. Patients with dysphagia may also feel as though they have a lump in their throat.
Other tertiary side effects of this problem include weight loss from being unable to eat, or coughing and choking when attempting to swallow. Severe cases of dysphagia may even change the way a person’s voice sounds.
Treatment of Dysphagia
Most disorders that result in dysphagia can be treated with medication, but there are also a few living habits that can help reduce the prevalence of symptoms. Often a care provider will suggest eating smaller and more frequent meals while also eliminating tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine from the diet. Avoiding food a few hours before bedtime and keeping the head elevated during sleep can help prevent esophageal reflux.
Swallowing therapy is also an option for those who are severely impacted with dysphagia. Speech pathologists can help a patient better coordinate their swallowing muscles through special exercises that are designed to stimulate swallowing nerves and allow them to swallow on their own.
Patients who experience extreme dysphagia may have difficulty feeding themselves, which is why family members are encouraged to step in and learn feeding techniques to help their loved one.
Either way, once the cause of dysphagia has been determined, then you can assess your treatment options with your ENT doctor. If you’re having trouble swallowing contact Commonwealth ENT to schedule an appointment. Our specialist can diagnose and determine if medication, swallowing therapy, or perhaps surgery is the best treatment option for you.