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Swallowing Disorders


What Is A Swallowing Disorder (Dysphagia)?

Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder that more than 15 million Americans have. They can occur at any age. Swallowing problems may be temporary, or may be an indication of a serious medical problem.

What causes a swallowing disorder?

Some causes of swallowing problems might be due to damage to the nervous system, due to a stroke. For example:

  • Brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Problems affecting the neck and head including:
  • Cancer in the mouth, throat, or esophagus
  • Injury or surgery involving the head and neck
  • Decayed or missing teeth, or poorly fitting dentures

What are the symptoms of a swallowing disorder?

Dysphagia can come and go, be mild or severe, or get worse over time. If you have dysphagia you may:

  • Have problems getting food or liquids to go down on the first try.
  • Gag, choke, or cough when you swallow.
  • Have food or liquids come back up through your throat, mouth, or nose after you swallow.
  • Feel like food or liquids are stuck in some part of your throat or chest.
  • Have pain when you swallow.
  • Have pain or pressure in your chest or have heartburn .
  • Loose weight because you are not getting enough food or liquid.

How is a swallowing disorder treated?

Your treatment will depend on what is causing your dysphagia. Treatment for dysphagia can include:

  • Exercises for your swallowing muscles
  • Changing the foods you eat
  • Dilation
  • Endoscopy
  • Surgery
  • Medicines
  • In rare cases, a person who has severe dysphagia may need a feeding tube because he or she is not able to get enough food and liquids.