Dysphagia is a common medical term that refers to difficulty swallowing. This may mean it takes longer to chew and swallow and you may be more at risk of inhaling food or drink. In the more severe cases, dysphagia stops the person from swallowing at all, meaning they will need to get nutrients through a feeding tube. Below we look at some of the common signs of dysphagia.
One of the most common signs of dysphagia is pain while swallowing, which could be caused by inflammation or scarring in the throat. Sometimes, dysphagia is caused by GERD, which is a type of acid reflux. When stomach acid repeatedly hits your throat, scarring can occur which makes it harder to swallow, as your esophagus gets tighter.
When you struggle to swallow, you may notice drooling. This is because it becomes more difficult to swallow saliva, leading to drooling out of the mouth. This may be more common in those who have other learning difficulties or disabilities.
This is something that will only be spotted after dysphagia has been causing problems for a while. If your loved one is losing weight and not eating as much, it may be down to an issue with their swallowing. Speak to a doctor if you notice unexplained weight loss in yourself or a loved one.
Choking or Coughing When Consuming Food and Drinks
As dysphagia is related to problems with swallowing, it can make it harder to breathe and swallow without coughing and choking. This can also cause other issues, such as inhaling saliva, food, or drinks. You may notice that you repeatedly do this at every meal. Inhalation of foreign objects, including food, can cause aspiration pneumonia, which is an infection in your lungs that needs antibiotic treatment.
Bringing Food Back Up
Dysphagia is classed as any condition that can affect the muscles you use to push down your food into the stomach, meaning it is not always in the throat. While it is rare for this to happen, sometimes dysphagia can cause problems further down, which means you bring your food back up. This may also food or drinks to come out through your nose.
Treatment for Dysphagia
The treatment for dysphagia can differ from person to person, depending on the severity of the symptoms and how long it lasts. This will depend on what is causing dysphagia in the first place. The most common causes include cancer, foreign objects, and neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.
For some people, a thickening agent can help to make liquids and a soft diet manageable, without the risk of aspiration (inhaling food or drink into your lungs). SimplyThick thickener from Simply Thick is designed for dysphagia patients, so they can gain control over their food and drink intake again. This thickens any drink, making it easier to swallow.
Being aware of the common signs of dysphagia can make it easier to spot if you or your loved one is at risk. Speak to a doctor if you have any of the above symptoms.