Understanding the symptoms of dysphagia is very important in order to prevent major health complications. The condition is common in older adults, babies, and people with nervous or brain disorder. The article provides information about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this condition.
Dysphagia is a medical condition where patients have difficulty swallowing food. It is usually a sign of problem with throat or esophagus. There are some patients who find it difficult to swallow some specific type of food and liquids. In other patients, the mechanism of swallowing is badly impaired. The condition can occur due to two reasons; problem with the muscles and nerves of throat or esophagus, or blockage in throat or esophagus.
It can be defined as a disorder that obstructs the passage of food from the mouth to the stomach. It is categorized into two different types. Oropharyngeal or high dysphagia is the type that arises due to trouble in the first stage of swallowing. It can be associated with problem in the mouth or middle part of the throat. Esophageal or low dysphagia is characterized by the difficulty in swallowing food that occurs due to problem in the esophagus.
There are many different causes of this condition. A serious head injury or a spinal injury often leads to this condition. These kinds of injuries have an adverse impact on the muscle and nerve coordination, that controls the swallowing mechanism. Elderly often develop this condition after a stroke. Here, the condition is triggered by neurological damage that affects nerves and muscles of the body. The condition in children is mostly related to some birth defect in the throat. People suffering from various nervous system conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other age-related issues may also get this problem.
When the symptoms are mild, patients can swallow their food slowly. However, if it turns serious, the affected person may experience unbearable pain while swallowing. Apart from this, there are some other symptoms as well. They are as follows:
- Abnormal coughing while eating, which can be accompanied by choking. It is more common while drinking liquids.
- Frequent gagging when the food is trapped in the lower part of the throat, which may even interfere with breathing.
- People affected by this condition often complain about dry mouth and pain while swallowing solid foods.
- Sore throat sensation is also observed, in some cases.
- Some may get a constant feeling that, food is stuck in their throat.
- When the food is caught inside the esophagus, it causes a lot of pain and discomfort in the middle of the chest.
- In case there is aspiration of food into the lungs, some may suffer from recurring upper respiratory infections or pneumonia.
- Sudden loss of weight is a sign of malnutrition, which is caused due to insufficient intake of food.
- Excessive drooling, belching, and bad breath are other common symptoms.
The treatment is recommended, based upon the severity of the symptoms. Swallowing therapy is an effective treatment, which is conducted by a speech and language therapist. The therapist teaches the patients new methods of swallowing. They also suggest exercises that are helpful for improving the swallowing reflex. These patients are often advised to follow a diet to prevent malnutrition.
It includes food that can be easily swallowed and is rich in nutrition. Mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, and cheese are few such semisolid foods that can be taken by these patients without much difficulty. If the patients stop eating completely, then they are fed with the help of feeding tubes. When the swallowing is affected due to structural abnormalities, then it is corrected with the help of surgery.
The symptoms of this condition should not be ignored as it can lead to malnutrition and dehydration. Besides, it may lead to aspiration pneumonia, which could be fatal.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.