Swallowing disorder is a medical condition where one has difficulty swallowing food or liquids with ease. It is also known as dysphagia. Unlike ordinary people who can chew food properly and gulp down liquids, people with dysphagia fail to do it and often end up choking on their food. This can happen to children as well as adults. Thus, one must consult the best gastroenterologist in  India for proper and quick treatment. The swallowing disorder can be temporary and can be cured on its own.  

Symptoms of Dysphagia 

Here are some of the symptoms of Dysphagia that one must not ignore. 

  • Drooling 
  • Pain while swallowing
  • Coughing or gagging when swallowing
  • Eating disorder and voice change 
  • being hoarse 
  • Having problems to eat large chunks or cutting down food into smaller pieces to eat properly
  • Unexpected weight loss

The inability to eat food can hinder your nutrition gain. Thus, one should consult nutrition counselling services to seek insight into what type of diet is suitable for you. 

Causes of Swallowing disorder

Several muscles and nerves are engaged in the process of swallowing food and liquids. The process of swallowing occurs in different stages: oral preparatory, oral, pharyngeal, and oesophagal. Swallowing disorders occur when the muscles are affected and neural control is weakened. There can be several causes of dysphagia. They generally fall under two categories- 

  1. Oesophagal Dysphagia
  2. Oropharyngeal Dysphagia

Oesophagal Dysphagia – 

For a person having oesophagal dysphagia, they have a feeling that something is stuck in the throat. Some causes of oesophagal dysphagia are – 

  1. Achalasia – This is a rare condition where the muscles and nerves that control the oesophagus are affected. Achalasia doesn’t allow the lower oesophagus muscles to relax, thus not letting the food enter the stomach. The walls of the oesophagus may weaken, and this condition may worsen over time. It usually affects adults between the age of 20-40. 
  2. GERD or Acid Reflux – Acid Reflux is a condition where you have a frequent burning sensation or heartburn in the lower chest area. Acid reflux causes the contents of the stomach to move up to your oesophagus. This causes scarring and narrowing of the lower oesophagus, making it difficult to swallow food. 
  3. Diffuse spasm – Diffuse Esophageal spasm is when one experiences painful and uncoordinated contractions of the oesophagus. These spasms feel like chest pain that lasts for a few minutes or so. Diffuse spasm affects the oesophagus muscles, making it difficult to swallow, thus leading to dysphagia. 
  4. Oesophagal cancer- A cancerous tumour formed on the lining of the oesophagus can lead to Esophageal cancer. As the tumour grows, it can cause harm to the tissues and muscles in the oesophagus, thus can lead to the debilitating condition of Dysphagia. Generally, people who smoke or drink alcohol are at the risk of developing this cancer.
  5. Gastric cancer, also known as stomach cancer, is a condition where malignant cells grow within the stomach’s lining. Although it’s rare for someone to have stomach cancer, it can still cause difficulty in swallowing food. Its symptoms are not easily detected. Thus it is diagnosed only at a later stage. 

Oropharyngeal Dysphagia- 

This type of Dysphagia is caused by disorders of the nerves and muscles, affecting the nerves and muscles in the oesophagus and hampering their functioning. This causes the person to choke or gag while eating food. Some of the causes are – 

  1. Neurological disorders: Nerves control most of the functions of the body. Disorder of the nerves thus can be very dangerous. Some neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, sclerosis, stroke, etc. Swallowing disease and dementia can have a harrowing effect on the person.  The nerves are severely damaged, and the ability to eat or swallow is lost. 
  2. Cancers: Certain cancers and their treatments, medications, radiation therapy etc., can affect the ability to swallow.
  3. Pharyngoesophageal diverticulum: Also known as Zenker’s diverticulum, is a condition where a pouch is formed near the throat and just above the oesophagus. The food collects here, making it difficult to swallow. This leads to constant coughing, gurgling sounds, clearing of the throat, bad breath etc. One must consult a food pipe specialist for this debilitating condition.

Swallowing disorder in children- 

Dysphagia can also occur among children. If you notice that your child cannot swallow food and the condition persists for several days, you must immediately consult a child specialist. Children who are prematurely born or have medical history are at risk of developing dysphagia. Some of the swallowing disorder symptoms in children are –

  • Eating slowly
  • Drooling 
  • Coughing, choking, gagging before or after meals. 
  • Stiffening of the body during feeding 

One needs to consult a Swallowing disorder specialist in order to treat dysphagia in kids. 

Swallowing disorder treatment

Your doctor may recommend an appropriate treatment, and medication is depending upon the type of Dysphagia one has. They may also recommend some diet modification, swallowing exercises to strengthen muscles in the oesophagus, etc. If the dysphagia persists, your doctor may also recommend surgery. 

If you have a liver condition and a swallowing disorder, then one can teleconsult liver doctor

Living with a swallowing disorder can be troublesome. However, with proper care and treatment, one can overcome this difficult situation.

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