Why You Might be Struggling to Swallow Food
Dysphagia is the medical term used to refer to difficulties with swallowing and can include symptoms of coughing or choking when eating or drinking, bringing food back up, a sensation of food being stuck, persistent drooling of saliva, inability to chew food properly, and a wet-sounding voice when eating or drinking. Dysphagia can be painful and uncomfortable, causing sufferers to avoid eating and drinking as they used to. It is important to reach out to a medical professional if you suspect you are suffering from dysphagia to discuss a treatment plan.
What Causes Swallowing Difficulties?
Although it is normal to face difficulties with swallowing occasionally; due to a cold, flu, sinus, or throat infection, or accidentally choking from eating too quickly, it is not normal to experience symptoms of dysphagia regularly. Persistent difficulty is indicative of underlying issues and requires immediate medical attention.
The two primary areas that can cause dysphagia are the mouth or throat and the esophagus. This will occur when there is something wrong with the passage or the muscles used to transport food and liquids to the stomach. Problems with these areas can be caused by:
- Neurological Conditions – such as a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, motor neurone disease, brain tumors, and myasthenia gravis (a rare muscle-weakening condition)
- Congenital and Developmental Conditions – such as learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, and cleft lip and palate
- Muscular Conditions – such as scleroderma (the immune system attacks healthy tissue) and achalasia (muscles in the esophagus lose the ability to relax and open)
- Obstruction – such as cancer, pouches or build-up in the throat or esophagus, scar tissue from radiotherapy treatment, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, tuberculosis, or thrush infections
Internal examinations can be done to identify the cause of dysphagia.
What Treatment is Available?
There are multiple options available to treat dysphagia. Treatment can help sufferers regain control over the process of eating and drinking and improve their quality of life when it comes to enjoying food and beverages. Symptoms of difficulties with swallowing can be disruptive to daily life, even interrupting plans to socialize. However, the following treatments can help to eliminate these issues.
- Speech and Language Therapy – exercises, techniques, and positioning to improve the ability in using muscles effectively
- Liquid Thickening – using products like SimplyThick gel to modify the consistency of food and beverages for easier swallowing
- Feeding through Tubes – nutrition and medication provided through tubes that lead to the stomach to prevent malnutrition and dehydration
- Surgery – the esophagus is widened to allow food to fit through the passage
The best option will be recommended by a treatment team to suit patient needs and achieve the ideal results.
If you are experiencing symptoms of dysphagia like coughing or choking when eating or drinking, bringing food back up, a sensation of food being stuck, persistent drooling of saliva, inability to chew food properly, and a wet-sounding voice when eating or drinking, you should immediately reach out for medical guidance. An examination can be done to identify if the cause is in the mouth or throat area or the esophagus and due to neurological conditions, congenital and developmental conditions, muscular conditions, or obstruction to form a suitable treatment plan. This can consist of speech and language therapy, liquid thickening, feeding through tubes, or surgery depending on the needs of the patient.