Dysphagia: What is it?
Dysphagia is a condition that causes difficulty swallowing and can disrupt everyday activities. It affects both adults and children and can occur for a variety of reasons. In particular, dysphagia is caused by a weak or impaired swallowing muscle, a narrowing of the throat, or a limitation on the passage of food from the mouth to the stomach.
Signs and Symptoms of Dysphagia
The most common signs and symptoms of dysphagia include difficulty initiating swallowing, increased time to initiate and complete swallows, feeling of food ‘sticking’ in the throat, coughing or choking on food, food or liquid escaping out of the mouth or nose, hoarseness, and unexplained weight loss. Other signs include difficulty managing different consistencies of food, such as solid foods, liquids and purees, and frequent throat clearing after each swallow.
Causes and Risk Factors of Dysphagia
Dysphagia is commonly caused by a range of medical conditions including stroke, head and neck cancer, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease and neurological diseases. Other factors that increase the risk of swallowing difficulties include age, obesity, smoking and alcoholism.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Dysphagia
The diagnosis of dysphagia must be done by a licensed health professional. The assessment typically includes a thorough medical history and clinical examination, a videofluoroscopic swallow evaluation and/or fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing. Based on the diagnosis, treatment may include medications, posture or compensatory strategies or specialized therapy.
Medication for Dysphagia
Medications used to treat dysphagia may include muscle relaxants or antacids that aim to reduce muscle spasm or reflux. Proton pump inhibitors may be prescribed to reduce acid reflux, while anticholinergics can help to relax the esophageal muscles and reduce spasm.
Therapy for Dysphagia
Therapy to improve swallowing can involve strategies such as changing the food consistency, posture changes, and exercises to strengthen the muscles of the throat. Swallow therapists use special techniques like the ‘Shaker head’ or ‘Lee Silverman Voice Therapy’ to improve coordination of the swallowing muscles.
Dysphagia is a serious condition that affects the ability to swallow. There are a variety of medical conditions that can cause dysphagia, so it is important to see a licensed health professional for diagnosis. Treatment for dysphagia may involve medications, posture or compensatory strategies or specialized therapy. If you are experiencing any swallowing difficulties, it is important to seek diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.
Keywords: Dysphagia, Swallowing Difficulties, Signs, Causes, Treatments, Health, Stroke, Head and Neck Cancer, Cerebral Palsy, Medications, Therapy, Posture Changes, Exercises.