When you have difficulty swallowing foods or liquids, you are suffering from a medical condition known as dysphagia. This can have an adverse effect on your health, especially if symptoms are so severe you become malnourished. If the problem persists, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Causes of Dysphagia
Swallowing problems involve more than just the ability to transfer foods and liquids from your mouth to your stomach. You may experience a host of other symptoms, including choking on food, pain when swallowing, excessive throat clearing, hiccups, chest pain, weight loss, and pneumonia (which could be the result of food entering the lungs rather than the esophagus).
A large number of maladies can cause dysphagia. These range from physical obstructions in the throat and esophagus to acid reflux (GERD), Schatzki’s rings, diverticulitis, nervous system disorders, congenital deformities, and tumors.
If you are experiencing difficulties swallowing for an extended period of time, see a doctor for a complete evaluation. Left untreated, you could suffer from malnutrition, dehydration, and dangerous weight loss.
Treatment & Prevention
Your medical provider will give you a thorough physical exam and likely administer tests to help pinpoint the cause of your swallowing disorder. Cineradiography, upper endoscopy, manometry, and pH testing may all be employed.
Treatment varies depending on the type of swallowing problem you have and what is causing it. Often, the condition is temporary and will disappear on its own. Other times, you may need to try different techniques like sitting upright while eating, cutting food into small pieces and chewing it slowly and thoroughly, and drinking plenty of fluids. A specialist can help you focus on learning new swallowing techniques through jaw exercises. Medications or surgery may be an option, and in severe cases, a liquid diet might be necessary.