Struggling with swallowing food or drinks, also known as dysphagia, can detract from the simple joys of life, such as enjoying your favorite drink at Tropical Smoothie Cafe. While it’s common to experience swallowing difficulties occasionally, ongoing problems may necessitate a visit to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist for diagnosis and treatment.
Understanding and Identifying the Types of Dysphagia
Every year, approximately 4% of adults in the United States face challenges with swallowing. Dysphagia is divided into three main categories, depending on which part of the swallowing process is impacted: esophageal, pharyngeal and oral.
Esophageal dysphagia is characterized by food’s difficulty moving down the esophagus, the tube that links the stomach and throat. Pharyngeal dysphagia is related to trouble with food passing through the throat. Oral dysphagia is related to issues with transferring food or liquid from the mouth to the throat, often due to problems with the tongue or jaw.
Persistent or severe difficulty swallowing can significantly affect your daily activities. Awareness of dysphagia symptoms is essential for seeking help and minimizing its impact on your life. Symptoms may vary in severity and frequency and include pain in the throat or chest when swallowing, a feeling of food stuck in the throat, coughing or choking during or after eating, regurgitation of food or nasal regurgitation.
Symptoms such as a sore throat, hoarseness, difficulty breathing, chest pain, acid reflux or vomiting might also present without eating or drinking.
Exploring Treatment Options for Dysphagia
The approach to treating dysphagia varies based on its root cause, which can range from issues with esophageal muscle movement, structural anomalies in the esophagus, eosinophilic esophagitis (a chronic allergic and inflammatory condition of the esophagus), to neurological disorders affecting mouth, throat and esophagus functionality.
Consultation with an ENT specialist is recommended for dysphagia treatment. Depending on the specific condition, treatment options may include medications like antacids, muscle relaxants and acid blockers to alleviate symptoms.
Swallowing therapy is another effective strategy, focusing on exercises that improve the functioning of nerves and muscles involved in swallowing. This therapy aims to strengthen jaw, lip and tongue muscle coordination, range of motion and strength.
In certain cases, surgical interventions may be required to widen the esophagus, ensuring a smoother passage for food and liquids.
If dysphagia is interfering with your ability to enjoy meals and impacting your quality of life, seeking expert advice is crucial. Contact Midwest ENT Centre to schedule a consultation with our specialists for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.