Common in all age groups, particularly the elderly, difficulty in swallowing, or dysphagia, is something that affects many of us. Dysphagia is the feeling of passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach with difficulty. Where most are temporary and non-threatening, dysphagia is caused by quite a few factors. However, in few cases, problems swallowing can be due to more serious medical diagnosis, such as a tumor or a progressive neurological disorder. Generally, if the issue hasn’t resolved itself in a short timeframe, you need to schedule and appointment with ENT Specialists. At this time, we at the ENT Specialists would like to elaborate briefly on swallowing disorders.
4 Stages of Dysphagia
From swallowing saliva, mucus, foods, and drinks, people normally swallow hundreds of times throughout the day. There are four related stages in the swallowing process, they include the following:
1st Stage: The oral preparation stage – Chewing and manipulating food or liquids in swallowing preparation.
2nd Stage: The oral stage – Starting the swallowing process is where the tongue propels the food or liquid to the back of the mouth.
3rd Stage: The pharyngeal stage – Food or liquid begins to quickly pass through the pharynx, which is the throat region that connects the mouth with the esophagus, then into the swallowing tube, or esophagus.
4th Stage: The esophageal stage – Food or liquid passes through the esophagus into the stomach.
Stages three and four occur involuntarily, and the first and second stages have some voluntary control.
Swallowing Disorder Symptoms
– A feeling that food or liquid is sticking in the throat
– Discomfort in the throat or chest (when gastro esophageal reflux is present)
– A sensation of a foreign body or “lump” in the throat
– Weight loss and inadequate nutrition due to prolonged or more significant problems with swallowing
– Coughing or choking caused by bits of food, liquid, or saliva not passing easily during swallowing, and being sucked into the lungs
– Voice change
Difficulty Swallowing Causes
Difficulties can occur with interruption in the swallowing process. To help reduce problems with swallowing, eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Problems such as poor teeth, ill-fitting dentures, or even a common cold can impact the swallowing. Gastro esophageal reflux is among the top common causes of dysphagia. Discomfort is caused from the stomach acid moving up the esophagus to the pharynx. Other medical issues that causes swallowing difficulty include hypertension; diabetes; thyroid disease; stroke; progressive neurologic disorder; the presence of a tracheotomy tube; a paralyzed or unmoving vocal cord; a tumor in the mouth, throat, or esophagus; or surgery in the neck, head, or esophageal areas.
Throat & Neck Care
Depending on the cause dictates treatment. Medications, a change in eating habits, eliminate alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco products, reduce weight and stress, keeping the head elevated during sleep, swallowing therapy, and surgery are all various methods and are used in accordance to why you are having problems swallowing.
If you are having problems swallowing, call ENT Specialists and let our medical professionals help diagnose the underlying problem and prescribe treatment accordingly.