Dysphagia is difficulty eating because of disruption in the swallowing process. If dysphagia is severe, you may not be able to take in enough fluids and calories to stay healthy. In severe cases, even saliva is difficult to swallow. Complications may include aspiration
(food or liquids are pulled into your lungs), malnutrition, dehydration, weight loss, and airway blockage.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors include:
polio Previous treatment for head and neck cancer Progressive neurological disorder or muscle disorder Gastroesophageal reflux disease Head trauma
Trouble swallowing Constant feeling of a lump in the throat Pain with swallowing Drooling Coughing or choking with eating or drinking Recurrent pneumonia Nasal sounding voice Sensation of food sticking in the chest Weight loss
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. The exam will focus on the nervous system. The doctor will also watch you chewing and swallowing.
Tests may include:
Nasopharyngoscopy—using a scope to view the throat Blood tests—to check for infection and thyroid function
—x-ray test of the esophagus
Endoscopy—a thin, lighted tube inserted down the throat to examine the esophagus Videoradiographic studies—x-rays during which swallowing is filmed on video
—a test that uses sound waves to examine structures inside the body
Ultrasound Manometry—tests the amount of pressure generated in various parts of the esophagus pH studies—tests the degree of acidity in the esophagus
—a type of x-ray that uses computers to make pictures of the neck and chest
—to check for pneumonia
Treatment may include:
Treating the underlying condition may help improve your swallowing problems.
A speech-language pathologist can teach you:
Techniques to help you swallow more easily Exercises that strengthen the muscles needed for swallowing
In severe cases, you may need to use high-nutrition liquid drinks. If you have trouble swallowing thin liquids, you may need powders to thicken liquids so they are easier to swallow.
If the esophagus is too narrow, instruments may be used to slowly stretch the esophagus.
Biofeedback Nasogastric feeding tube
In severe cases, surgery may be needed to:
Release an overly tight muscle Remove a stricture or web that is blocking the esophagus Place a stent (a tiny tube) to hold the esophagus open Place a feeding tube through the abdominal wall
Most causes of dysphagia cannot be prevented. If you have a medical condition, get treatment so that you don't suffer complications, such as dysphagia.
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Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease
. 6th ed. W.B. Saunders Company; 1998.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a
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