Dysphagia: Everything You Need To Know

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What is Dysphagia?

old man with a machine attached to him

Dysphagia is when you have trouble swallowing either food or liquid, meaning it’ll take much more time for the food to travel down to your stomach. While at times trouble swallowing could be caused by eating too fast or not chewing well enough, dysphagia goes beyond that. In severe cases, swallowing is next to impossible.

What are the symptoms of Dysphagia?

  • Not being able to swallow comfortably, or at all
  • Experiencing pain when swallowing, which is known as odynophagia
  • When it feels like food is stuck in your throat, your chest, or your sternum
  • Experiencing heartburn frequently, or having stomach acid in the back of your throat
  • Often regurgitating food 
  • Gagging or coughing when swallowing 
woman drinking something to soothe her throat
  • Having hoarseness in your voice, or drooling
  • Being overly conscious about how you cut your food
  • Avoiding certain foods, altogether, because you can’t swallow them
  • Unexpectedly losing weight without any specific reason as to why

What are some causes of Dysphagia?

woman holding her throat with diagram
  • Esophageal Dysphagia is when it feels like food is getting stuck in the base of the throat or chest.
    • Some of the causes include:
      • GERD
      • Achalasia
      • Diffuse Spasm
      • Esophageal Stricture
      • and more
  • Oropharyngeal Dysphagia is when your throat muscles have weakened. This can make swallowing very difficult since you can’t move the food to your throat and down your esophagus. This may cause you to cough, gag, or even choke on food.
    • Some of the causes include:
      • Cancer
      • Neurological disorders or damage
      • Pharyngoesophageal diverticulum or Zenker’s diverticulum

What are some of the risk factors and complications?

  • Risk Factors
    • Natural aging will cause wear and tear in the esophagus.
    • Certain nervous system or neurological disorders can either cause or make Dysphagia worse.
woman holding her throat
  • Complications
    • Choking from food and liquid getting stuck. If the airways aren’t cleared, it could lead to death.
    • If you can’t get the right amount of fluids of nutrients, it could lead to dehydration, weight loss, and malnutrition.
    • Aspiration pneumonia is caused when liquid or food get into the airways. This can cause harmful bacteria to get into the lungs.

Can you prevent Dysphagia?

There is no cure for it, but when you work with our staff at Cedar Crest Ear, Nose, and Throat, we can work together to figure out a solution that works for you. Once we figure out the best treatment methods, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite foods and beverages without any worry.