Dysphagia: What is it and what could it mean?

On any given day, our providers here at Digestive Health Specialists see patients who experience a choking or strangling sensation in their throat. The medical term for this sensation is “dysphagia” and it means difficulty swallowing. It can occur in anyone but most commonly older adults. Occasional problems swallowing from eating too quickly or not chewing food thoroughly are usually not cause for concern, but persistent dysphagia may be a sign of a medical condition which requires treatment from a Gastroenterologist.

 

Signs and symptoms of dysphagia…

  • Pain while swallowing/unable to swallow
  • Sensation of food getting stuck in throat or chest
  • Drooling
  • Hoarseness
  • Regurgitation
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Stomach acid burning in throat
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Having to eat very small bites to avoid choking on food

 

 

The causes of dysphagia can be related to the narrowing or muscle spasms of the esophagus, weakening of throat muscles, affiliated with neurological damage/disorders, and in some cases cancer. Swallowing is a complex process and various conditions can interfere. The only two significant risk factors for experiencing dysphagia are aging (wear and tear on the esophagus) and certain health conditions that qualify as neurological or nervous system disorders.

 

If you realize you need to see a doctor for dysphagia, in the meantime it will be helpful to chew food more slowly and thoroughly than normal. Eating smaller meals and avoiding eating right before bedtime may also help. Make sure to keep track of symptoms, personal information like major stresses or recent life changes, and to be prepared with questions to ask your doctor at your visit. Call us to make your appointment today if you have trouble swallowing!

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