Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. People who suffer with this condition will often take more time and need more effort to swallow food and liquids. In some cases, it can cause pain when swallowing, and some people with this condition might find it completely impossible to swallow. Most people will suffer some difficulty with swallowing from time to time, for example, if you have not chewed your food enough. This is not usually any reason to be worried, but persistent problems with swallowing might be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Common Dysphagia Symptoms
People who are struggling with dysphagia may experience a range of symptoms. Pain while swallowing, being unable to swallow, a hoarse voice, drooling, bringing food back up, a sensation of food being stuck in the throat or chest, unexpected weight loss, frequent heartburn, or gagging or coughing while swallowing might all be signs of dysphagia.
When Medical Attention is Required
You should speak to your doctor about the issue if you are experiencing persistent issues with swallowing or if swallowing is accompanied by regurgitation, vomiting, or unexpected or unintended weight loss. Seek emergency attention at the nearest urgent care center or emergency room if you have issues with an obstruction in your throat that causes trouble breathing.
Causes of Dysphagia
Swallowing is a very complex process, and there are a number of different factors that may interfere with it. Dysphagia falls into two different categories. These are oropharyngeal dysphagia, which refers to a weakening of the throat muscles making swallowing difficult; and esophageal dysphagia, which is the sensation of food getting stuck in the throat after beginning the swallowing process. Both can be caused by a number of conditions, with some of the most common being neurological disorders or damage; cancer; radiation therapy; esophageal tumors; foreign bodies in the throat; or achalasia, which is a stiffening of the esophageal muscle.
Management and Prevention
Although dysphagia cannot be prevented completely, most people are able to reduce their risk of having trouble swallowing by eating slowly and chewing food thoroughly before swallowing. It is also important to detect and treat any conditions that may cause dysphagia as early as possible to reduce the risk of developing it. People with dysphagia have several options when it comes to management of this condition including special diets with blended or pureed food that are easier to swallow or using products like SimplyThick thickener gel in liquids to ease swallowing.
When it persists over time, difficulty swallowing is an urgent condition that will require medical attention. This is because being unable to swallow food or liquid can lead to malnutrition, dehydration and rapid weight loss, which can cause a range of other health problems. Along with this, dysphagia can also lead to getting food stuck in the throat, which can increase the risk of choking. Aspiration pneumonia, which is caused by food entering the airway and lungs when you swallow, can also be a complication of this condition.
Dysphagia can be caused by several underlying conditions and should be treated and managed as early as possible to avoid complications and risks.