Dysphagia

Swallowing problems (dysphagia) occur when solids and liquids seem to stick in your throat on the way down to your stomach, or the food takes longer to get to the stomach. Other symptoms include regurgitating food, noises coming from the throat, chest discomfort with swallowing, and a feeling of fullness or the feeling of something being stuck in your throat when swallowing. When blockage in your throat is complete it may be associated with drooling.

CAUSES

Problems with swallowing may occur because of problems with the muscles. The food cannot be propelled in the usual manner into your stomach. You may have ulcers, scar tissue, or inflammation in the tube down which food travels from your mouth to your stomach (esophagus), which blocks food from passing normally into the stomach. Causes of inflammation include:

  • Acid reflux from your stomach into your esophagus.

  • Infection.

  • Radiation treatment for cancer.

  • Medicines taken without enough fluids to wash them down into your stomach.

You may have nerve problems that prevent signals from being sent to the muscles of your esophagus to contract and move your food down to your stomach. Globus pharyngeus is a relatively common problem in which there is a sense of an obstruction or difficulty in swallowing, without any physical abnormalities of the swallowing passages being found. This problem usually improves over time with reassurance and testing to rule out other causes.

DIAGNOSIS

Dysphagia can be diagnosed and its cause can be determined by tests in which you swallow a white substance that helps illuminate the inside of your throat (contrast medium) while X-rays are taken. Sometimes a flexible telescope that is inserted down your throat (endoscopy) to look at your esophagus and stomach is used.

TREATMENT

  • If the dysphagia is caused by acid reflux or infection, medicines may be used.

  • If the dysphagia is caused by problems with your swallowing muscles, swallowing therapy may be used to help you strengthen your swallowing muscles.

  • If the dysphagia is caused by a blockage or mass, procedures to remove the blockage may be done.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Try to eat soft food that is easier to swallow and check your weight on a daily basis to be sure that it is not decreasing.

  • Be sure to drink liquids when sitting upright (not lying down).

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You are losing weight because you are unable to swallow.

  • You are coughing when you drink liquids (aspiration).

  • You are coughing up partially digested food.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You are unable to swallow your own saliva
.

  • You are having shortness of breath or a fever, or both.


  • You have a hoarse voice along with difficulty swallowing.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.