The body uses dozens of different muscles and nerves during the act of swallowing, and there are plenty of opportunities for problems to occur. Medical research classifies difficulty swallowing into two categories: oropharyngeal, which relates to the mouth, and esophageal, which relates to the throat.
There are several reasons that patients experience difficulty swallowing, and doctors refer to this condition as dysphagia. Common symptoms include:
- Inability to swallow at will
- Feeling that an object is stuck in the throat
- Uncontrollable drooling
- Trouble breathing while eating
- Raspy voice
- Painful swallowing
- Coughing while trying to swallow
- Difficulty chewing firm foods
Underlying conditions may be responsible for dysphagia, and the doctor will need to perform tests to diagnose the condition properly. Acid reflux is a common condition that makes it more difficult for a patient to swallow, and other conditions range from cancers, to thyroid problems, to infections along the digestive tract.
An X-ray after drinking a barium solution can help doctors identify abnormalities in the esophagus, and an endoscopy may be required to examine the esophagus from the inside of the throat. Other tests will have a patient swallow while a tube is inserted down their throat to determine if the muscles along the esophagus are functioning normally.
Because there are so many potential causes for a patient’s difficulty swallowing, treatments vary. Often times, diet modifications are effective at reducing the symptoms, and if there is an underlying condition, this will also need to be treated. Changing postures while eating can help, and you may be prescribed special exercises to strengthen the muscles responsible for swallowing. Talk to a doctor from GastroCare LI by calling (516) 265-7049 to learn more about difficulty swallowing and what may be causing these symptoms.
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