Difficulty in swallowing (Dysphagia) is common among all age groups, especially the elderly. This may be caused by many factors, most of which are not threatening and temporary.
The term Dysphagia refers to the feeling of difficulty passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach.
Difficulties in swallowing rarely present a more serious disease, such as a tumor or a progressive neurological disorder. When the difficulty does not clear up by itself, in a short period of time, you should be an Otolaryngologist.
Causes of Dysphagia
Any interruption in the swallowing process can cause difficulties.
- It may be due to simple causes such as poor teeth, ill-fitting dentures, or a common cold.
- One of the most common causes of Dysphagia is Gastroesophageal Reflux. This occurs when stomach acid moves up the esophagus to the pharynx causing discomfort.
- Other causes may include Stroke, Progressive Neurologic Disorder, the presence of a Tracheostomy tube, a tumor in the mouth, throat or esophagus or surgery in the head, neck or esophageal areas.
Symptoms of Dysphagia May Include
- A feeling that food or liquid in sticking in the throat
- Discomfort in the throat or chest
- A sensation of a foreign body or “lump” in the throat
- Weight loss and inadequate nutrition due to prolonged or more significant problems with swallowing
- Coughing or choking caused by bits of food, liquid or saliva not passing easily during swallowing and being sucked into the lungs
Treatment of Dysphagia
Treatment is tailored to the particular cause of the swallowing disorder.
Many of these disorders can be treated with medication. Drugs that slow stomach acid production, muscle relaxants and antacids are a few of the many medicines available.