Swallowing Disorders

Also called: Dysphagia

If you have a swallowing disorder, you may have difficulty or pain when swallowing. Some people cannot swallow at all. Others may have trouble swallowing liquids, foods, or saliva. This makes it hard to eat. Often, it can be difficult to take in enough calories and fluids to nourish your body.

Anyone can have a swallowing disorder, but it is more likely in the elderly. It often happens because of other conditions, including

  • Nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson's disease and cerebral palsy
  • Problems with your esophagus, including GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Stroke
  • Head or spinal cord injury
  • Cancer of the head, neck, or esophagus

Medicines can help some people, while others may need surgery. Swallowing treatment with a speech-language pathologist can help. You may find it helpful to change your diet or hold your head or neck in a certain way when you eat. In very serious cases, people may need feeding tubes.

NIH: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Symptoms of Swallowing Disorders

The following features are indicative of Swallowing Disorders:
  • pain while swallowing
  • unable to swallow
  • sensation of food getting stuck in throat or chest or behind breastbone
  • drooling
  • regurgitation
  • frequent heartburn
  • food or stomach acid back up into throat
  • unexpectedly losing weight
  • coughing or gagging when swallowing

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Common Causes of Swallowing Disorders

The following are the most common causes of Swallowing Disorders:
  • achalasia
  • diffuse spasm
  • esophageal stricture
  • esophageal tumors
  • foreign food particles
  • esophageal ring

Other Causes of Swallowing Disorders

The following are the less common causes of Swallowing Disorders:
  • multiple sclerosis
  • neurological disorders such as muscular dystrophy , Parkinson's disease
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • eosinophilic esophagitis
  • scleroderma
  • radiation therapy
  • neurological damage such as stroke or brain or spinal cord injury
  • pharyngeal diverticula
  • cancer

Risk Factors for Swallowing Disorders

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Swallowing Disorders:
  • increasing age
  • neurological disorders
  • nervous system disorders

Prevention of Swallowing Disorders

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Swallowing Disorders. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • eat slowly
  • chew food well
  • early detection of GERD

Occurrence of Swallowing Disorders

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Swallowing Disorders cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Very common > 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Swallowing Disorders can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Swallowing Disorders can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Swallowing Disorders

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Swallowing Disorders:
  • Barium X-ray: To see changes in the shape of esophagus and to assess the muscular activity
  • Dynamic swallowing study: To see problems in the coordination of mouth and throat muscles when swallowing and determine whether food is going into breathing tube
  • Endoscopy: to visualise the esophagus
  • Fiberoptic endoscopic swallowing evaluation (FEES): To test the swallowing
  • Esophageal muscle test (manometry): To measure the muscle contractions of esophagus
  • Imaging scans: To create detailed images of organs and tissues

Doctor for Diagnosis of Swallowing Disorders

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Swallowing Disorders:
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech pathologist

Complications of Swallowing Disorders if untreated

Yes, Swallowing Disorders causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Swallowing Disorders is left untreated:
  • malnutrition
  • weight loss
  • dehydration
  • pneumonia
  • upper respiratory infections

Procedures for Treatment of Swallowing Disorders

The following procedures are used to treat Swallowing Disorders:
  • Esophageal dilation: To gently stretch and expand the width of esophagus or pass a flexible tube or tubes to stretch the esophagus
  • Surgery: To clear your esophageal path
  • Feeding tube: To bypass the part of swallowing mechanism that isn't working normally

Self-care for Swallowing Disorders

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Swallowing Disorders:
  • Try eating smaller, more-frequent meals: To help ease symptoms
  • Trying foods with different textures: To avoid foods that trouble
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine: To avoid heartburn

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Swallowing Disorders

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Swallowing Disorders:
  • Learning swallowing techniques: Help to swallow food easily

Time for Treatment of Swallowing Disorders

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Swallowing Disorders to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • In 1 - 4 weeks

Related Topics

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Swallowing Disorders.

Related Topics

Esophagus Disorders

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