If you have difficulty swallowing, you could be suffering from dysphagia. Difficulty swallowing can lead to choking on food and liquids or constantly experiencing a sensation that there is food stuck in the throat.
Dysphagia can sometimes be its own condition that disappears on its own. However, more often than not, it is a secondary symptom to other conditions you’re suffering from.
Causes of dysphagia
The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders suggests that a person uses 50 pairs of muscles and nerves when swallowing. Naturally, with so many working pieces, there is a lot that can go wrong.
There are plenty of reasons why you could struggle with swallowing. Below are just a few common causes of dysphagia.
Acid reflux or GERD is when stomach contents – including stomach acid – flow back up into the esophagus. This can cause heartburn and stomach pain.
Though not necessarily relevant to most of the continent, snake bites can cause temporary dysphagia. Venom can easily lead to an allergic reaction and should always be considered a medical emergency.
Heartburn can develop on its own, as well as a symptom of acid reflux. It can cause a burning sensation that leads to a bitter taste in the mouth. This, in turn, can make it more difficult to swallow.
When a cancerous tumor develops in the esophagus lining, this can make it incredibly difficult to swallow. Any suspicion or discomfort in the throat should always be checked by your physician.
There are lots of other causes of dysphagia which are both serious and less serious conditions. For example, those that have experienced a neck injury may have short or long-term dysphagia. Similarly, those who have suffered from a stroke may struggle to swallow as the brain is no longer signaling to the throat muscles.
Other conditions that impact the brain or nervous system can have a similar effect.
Treating difficulty swallowing
Whether you’ve just started experiencing difficulty swallowing or you’ve lived with the condition for some time, the following can help to manage or treat dysphagia:
Those that struggle swallowing can quickly suffer from additional issues like malnutrition and dehydration. With difficulty swallowing, people are quick to avoid situations in which they have to eat in front of others or may stop eating and drinking certain things. This can mean someone with dysphagia may not be getting the nutrients they really need.
As such, it is important for people to modify their diets. The first change could be to adopt a grazing-style diet rather than larger, set meals. Having more frequent, smaller meals can make the eating experience much less stressful and less tiring.
You may also benefit from thickeners like Simply Thick. These can help to make liquids and food more palatable for those with dysphagia. Thickeners can be added to meals and drinks both in and out of the house – meaning you can continue enjoying socializing just as much as your friends.
As with any muscle in the body, there are ways to strengthen them in order to improve functionality. The same can be done with the muscles used to swallow. There are several oropharyngeal exercises that can be practiced at home or in sessions with a speech therapist.
Medicine and medical procedures
Depending on the type of dysphagia you develop and its cause, there may be prescription medication that can help cure or alleviate symptoms. Alternatively, surgery may also be an option.
For any worries or queries, it is always best to consult your doctor.
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