Treatment Options Available Regardless Of The Cause •

Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia can be caused by a lot of different things.  Chronic dysphagia can cause complications.  Some of the things that can cause dysphagia are achalasia, diffuse spasm, esophageal stricture, esophageal tumors, foreign body, esophageal ring, GERD, eosinophilic esophagitis, scleroderma, or even radiation therapy.   These conditions can all have a symptom of difficulty swallowing. 

There are some conditions that can weaken the muscles.  This weakening of the muscles can cause choking, gagging, or even coughing.  These conditions that cause weakness of the esophageal muscles are called Oropharyngeal dysphagia.  Some conditions that cause this type of dysphagia are neurological disorders, neurological damage, pharyngoesophageal diverticulum, or cancer. 



If you start to suffer from difficulty swallowing you will want to reach out to your doctor immediately.  Leaving left untreated can cause some complications. 

Complications can include malnutrition, weight loss, and dehydration.  This can be very harmful if left untreated and could end in you being hospitalized to help get you hydrated and the nutrition your body needs. 

Other complications are aspiration pneumonia, which is when you breathe food, or liquids into your lungs.  Another complication can be choking.  This can cause continuous coughing until food is expelled, or it may cut off your airway completely.  



Your doctor will want to diagnose what is causing your trouble swallowing.  They have lots of different tests they may want to run. 

One test is an X-ray with contrast.  This will help the doctor be able to see if there are any growths in your esophagus. 

A dynamic swallow study may need to be done to see if your muscles are weakened and are the cause of your difficulty swallowing. 

An endoscopy or fiber optic endoscopic evaluation can also help diagnose the cause of your dysphagia. 

An esophageal muscle test or even just imaging scans can also help diagnose the cause.  Since there are so many different causes of dysphagia, your doctor may have to do a process of elimination before finding what the root of the cause is.  



After diagnosing and finding what the cause of your difficulty swallowing is, then your doctor will come up with a treatment plan. 

In cases where the muscles have been weakened or you have suffered from something that could cause you to have to relearn to swallow your doctor may set you up with a speech therapist.  The speech therapist will be able to put you through some swallow therapy.  The swallow therapy may include learning swallowing techniques, or learning good head positioning, and they can give you exercises to help strengthen your muscles. 

Another treatment that can help is esophageal dilation.  This is when your doctor, using a scope, will put a balloon in your throat, and expand it out to stretch out your esophagus so food can move more easily. 

If a tumor is the cause of the difficulty swallowing you may need surgery to remove the tumor. 

Treatment can be as easy as taking some medications.  When dealing with GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or esophageal spasms medication can help both of these things alleviating the difficulty swallowing symptom. 

In severe cases of difficulty swallowing you may have to change your diet to a mostly liquid diet.  In other severe cases a feeding tube may be needed as well. 

Sometimes Botox can be used to help if you have stiff esophageal muscles, the Botox can help paralyze these stiff muscles reducing their constriction.  


Lifestyle Helping Habits

Among these things there are some things you can do if you find that you are someone who suffers from difficulty swallowing normally. 

  • This is to sit upright and remain sitting for up to thirty minutes after eating. 
  • Make sure you minimize distractions while eating so you can focus on thoroughly chewing your food, and then swallowing. 
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full. 
  • Make sure you eat slowly, and take small bites. 
  • Cutting foods, or pureeing foods can also help eliminate some chance of swallowing troubles. 
  • It is easier for your body to swallow a solid food or a semi solid food mixed into a puree or liquid.  So taking pills in applesauce, or yogurt can help eliminate choking on your pill. 
  • Some foods may cause you more trouble than others, so eliminating these foods from your diet may be helpful as well. 
  • Taking sips of water between each bite of food will also help food slide down your esophagus easier.  


Don’t Wait Get Help

Though there are lots of causes of difficulty swallowing, there are lots of treatment options.  Usually with treatment options, positioning when eating, or eliminating foods that commonly choke you will be able to not have any more trouble swallowing. 

If you have had damage to your muscles, or neurological damage your doctor can send you to swallow therapy, where you will learn swallowing techniques as well as exercises to help strengthen up your esophageal muscles again. 

Left untreated difficulty swallowing can lead to some major complications, so make sure to speak with your doctor if you suffer from difficulty swallowing.  



Swallow therapy from a speech therapist may include learning swallowing techniques, or learning good head positioning, and they can give you exercises to help strengthen your muscles.

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HealthStatus Team

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