Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder that affects many people. It can range from mild to severe and can be caused by medical conditions or injuries like strokes, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or other neurological events. Those with dysphagia often have difficulty swallowing solid foods, liquids, and sometimes even saliva. Dysphagia can be treated with a variety of treatments, depending on the cause and severity of the condition.
Symptoms of Dysphagia
The symptoms of dysphagia can vary depending on the cause and severity, but may include:
– Coughing or choking while eating
– Feeling food getting stuck in your throat
– Unexplained weight loss
– Excessive drooling
– Recurring chest infections
– Painful swallowing
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Proper treatment is essential for reducing the severity of the condition and preventing potential complications.
Causes of Dysphagia
Dysphagia can be caused by a variety of conditions, including neurological disorders like stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, and multiple sclerosis; structural issues such as tumors or scar tissue; side effects of certain medications; and acid reflux. Evaluation by an Otolaryngologist or ENT is important so that an appropriate treatment plan can be developed.
Treatment of Dysphagia
In some cases, speech-language pathologists may recommend working one-on-one with patients to develop oral motor skills. An SLP may also make changes to diet and liquid consistency in order to improve a person’s ability to swallow safely. Additionally, enteral nutrition products such as thickened liquids or pureed food may be recommended for those who are unable to consume solid foods.
Other treatment options vary based on the cause of dysphagia. Speech therapy may be recommended if muscle coordination or re-training of the nerves is the cause. Medication may be recommended to reduce acid reflux if a damaged esophagus is the cause of the problem.
How an ENT Can Help
When it comes to diagnosing dysphagia, ENT specialists can help. There are several different ways we can diagnose dysphagia here at Reddy Sinus. Typically we use a combination of a physical exam combined with other specialized tests.
- Barium X-rays (Modified Barium Swallow) using contrast material to record how foods are being swallowed
- CT scans
- Endoscopic exams (which involve inserting a camera down the esophagus)
- Trans-nasal esophagoscopy which examines the esophagus and stomach with a camera
- Fiber-optic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES)
- Esophageal muscle test which uses a pressure recorded to measure muscle contractions when swallowing
When dysphagia is severe, ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialists may recommend endoscopic evaluation of the throat in order to diagnose any underlying conditions or structural issues that could be contributing to the swallowing difficulty. Surgery may also be necessary for certain cases.’
Treatment Options An ENT Can Provide
Esophageal dilation is a procedure used to treat dysphagia caused by narrowing of the esophagus. During the procedure, an ENT specialist will insert a thin tube down the esophagus and slowly expand it with light pressure from balloon-like devices. This helps open up any tight areas in the throat, allowing food or liquids to pass through more easily. The process can be performed under general or local anesthesia, depending on the patient’s situation and preferences. Esophageal dilation is generally safe and effective, with minimal side effects. However, it may not be suitable for everyone so it is important to consult your doctor before considering this treatment option.
Overall, there are many treatment options available for those suffering from dysphagia. It is important to consult with a medical professional to determine which type of treatment will best suit your individual needs and lifestyle. With the right diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan, it is possible to reduce and mitigate symptoms.