If you’re with an older relative and they’re having trouble swallowing their medicine, don’t make a joke about it being a bitter pill to swallow. They may have a physical condition called dysphagia.

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is a persistent swallowing difficulty. It should not be confused with problems swallowing due to fast eating or improper chewing. Dysphagia is most common in older people, but it can occur at any age.

What causes dysphagia?

Dysphagia has a number of possible causes, including cancer, neurological damage or disorders, Zenker’s diverticulum, acid reflux, esophageal spasms, and a blocked esophagus.

What are the symptoms of dysphagia?

Dysphagia symptoms include more that just the inability to swallow. Patients can also experience pain, drooling, hoarseness, regurgitation, acid reflux and heartburn, coughing or choking while eating, weight loss, and the sensation of food being stuck in the throat.

What are the long-term consequences of dysphagia?

Swallowing difficulty isn’t just a mealtime nuisance. People who can’t swallow their medicine might not be getting appropriate medical care. Not being able to eat can cause dehydration, weight loss, or even malnutrition. Food or liquid that enters the airway can cause aspiration pneumonia. Finally, if someone chokes while eating and the food can’t be dislodged, it could be fatal.

How is dysphagia diagnosed?

If you have any of the above symptoms, your doctor might recommend further tests. These could range from swallowing studies to endoscopies to x-rays and CT scans.

How is dysphagia treated?

Dysphagia treatment is dependent on the cause. In some cases, new swallowing techniques and exercises could be enough. In others, medicine, esophageal dilation, or even surgery could be necessary.

Dysphagia treatment at CEENTA

If you or a loved one is having trouble swallowing, schedule an appointment with a CEENTA ENT doctor. They will diagnose the cause of your issue and provide treatment that won’t be hard to swallow.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New patients can make appointments online with our doctors in North and South Carolina. Current patients can also make appointments through myCEENTAchart with physicians they have already seen.

 


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