Recent studies show that about 1 in every 25 adults has dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. It’s most frequently seen in older individuals, but the condition can be experienced across all age groups and for many different reasons.
This condition is often linked to underlying health conditions, particularly those associated with the brain and nervous system. Other factors that can cause dysphagia include dental problems, seizures, fatigue, and poor posture.
If you are having trouble swallowing, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of dysphagia so that you know to see a doctor who will help you find effective ways to manage it.
What Is Dysphagia?
Dysphagia occurs when you have trouble fully swallowing food and/or liquids. There are two main types of dysphagia:
- Oropharyngeal dysphasia is when the problem is due to weak throat muscles. This type is caused by difficulty in chewing food, tongue weakness (such as due to stroke), or problems with moving food from the mouth into the throat and esophagus. It is usually caused by neurological conditions, such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), multiple sclerosis (MS), or Parkinson’s disease.
- Esophageal dysphagia occurs in the esophagus. This produces the feeling of food not being swallowed properly and “sticking” in place in the throat or chest. This type can be caused by spasms, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), food allergy, tumors, radiation therapy, or scar tissue.
Signs and Symptoms of Swallowing Problems
Some patients experience the symptoms of dysphagia but are unaware of it, or they ignore the signs. However, if dysphasia is left undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause aspiration pneumonia – which is a lung infection that can develop by accidentally inhaling liquid or food particles. This can lead to complications such as malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration, and an increased risk of other illnesses.
Some of the symptoms that are linked to dysphagia include the following:
- Choking when eating
- Difficulty controlling the food in your mouth
- Coughing or gagging when trying to swallow
- A sensation of food getting stuck in the throat or chest
- Difficulty breathing during meals
- Inability to control saliva and drooling
- Food or stomach acid backing up into the throat (regurgitation)
- Recurrent pneumonia
- Frequent heartburn
- Hoarseness of the voice
- Weight loss
How Can Dysphasia Be Controlled?
Although a natural (health-related) difficulty in swallowing can be challenging to prevent, it can be managed so that it does not interfere with eating. Some of the practices you can follow include the following:
- Eat slowly
- Chew your food well
- Sit with good posture while eating and drinking
- Take good care of your mouth and teeth
- Get regular dental treatment
Help with Swallowing Disorders in Greater Austin, Texas
Persistent dysphagia may be an indication of an underlying medical condition that requires further attention. An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor can assess your condition and provide a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Here at Georgetown ENT, our physicians have years of experience in treating patients with throat and swallowing problems. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, contact us today by calling (512) 869-0604 or by filling out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to being your healthcare partner!