Dysphagia is a medical term used to describe difficulty swallowing. It can be caused by many things, from head injuries and neurological disorders to esophageal issues and certain types of cancer. Treatment depends on the underlying cause but may involve speech therapy or occupational therapy to help the patient learn how to properly swallow.
What Are the Symptoms of Dysphagia?
The symptoms of dysphagia include:
- Pain when swallowing
- Hoarseness in the voice and frequent coughing
- A sensation of food getting stuck in the throat or chest
- Regurgitation of food
- Heartburn and acid reflux
- Unexplained weight loss
Who Treats Dysphagia?
Otolaryngologists, or ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors, specialize in treating disorders of the throat, including dysphagia. There are different types of dysphagia, depending on which region it affects, and ENT doctors treat the most common type, which is oropharyngeal dysphagia, affecting the mouth and the throat. Oropharyngeal dysphagia can be due to a number of reasons, including problems with the muscles or nerves involved in swallowing or an obstruction in the throat.
ENT doctors have in-depth knowledge of the different types of swallowing disorders and how to properly diagnose and treat them. They also know about the latest research and treatments available for oropharyngeal dysphagia. Furthermore, they can put together a team of specialists to provide the full spectrum of care to patients with swallowing disorders that affect more than just the throat.
What Treatments Are Available for Dysphagia?
An ENT doctor will try to create a treatment plan that addresses the underlying cause of a patient’s dysphagia. However, in some cases, the underlying cause cannot be addressed directly. In such situations, ENTs employ other treatment modalities to improve symptoms of dysphagia specifically. Here are two common treatments that may be employed:
Swallowing therapy is a type of occupational therapy that helps people with oropharyngeal dysphagia improve their ability to swallow. The therapist will work with patients and help them learn or relearn how to swallow correctly through different exercises and techniques. For instance, they can help patients learn how to correctly position their head and neck for optimal swallowing and also how to chew. They may also recommend exercises or devices that can help improve the muscles used for swallowing.
Patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia need to make some changes to their diet. The ENT doctor can give specific recommendations for what type of food is best to eat and how much of it to eat. In general, however, it is important to avoid large meals and foods that are difficult to swallow. Instead, focus on smaller meals that are easy to chew and swallow. It is often recommended that dysphagia patients puree or chop their food into small pieces before eating.
Dysphagia Treatment in Georgetown, TX
Dr. Scott Franklin at Georgetown ENT is a double-certified otolaryngologist highly experienced in treating patients that suffer from throat issues that cause pain and difficulty swallowing. There are many throat conditions that can affect your ability to swallow, and Dr. Franklin will get to the bottom of your throat issue and prescribe a treatment that restores your ability to swallow normally again. Our treatment programs are personalized, so our patients do not receive a one-size-fits-all treatment plan.