What is Dysphagia and What are the Treatment Options?
Dysphagia is the medical term for when a person has difficulty swallowing. This is a condition that varies in severity and can impact a person’s life in different ways.
If you begin to experience dysphagia, then it is important that you consult your doctor as soon as possible. This is because it can be caused by a more serious underlying health condition, as well as how it can impact your ability to eat and drink properly, which can lead to further health complications.
What Causes Dysphagia?
Dysphagia usually develops when another health condition is at play. The most common conditions that lead to the onset of dysphagia are:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Brain injury
- Cancer (usually cancer of the mouth or cancer of the esophagus)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
- Cerebral palsy
- Certain developmental disabilities
Signs of Dysphagia
This condition can inhibit a person’s ability to swallow well and prevent a person from swallowing naturally. Spotting the signs early can help to seek a rapid diagnosis and then allow a patient to embark upon a route of treatment, which can prevent the situation from becoming worse.
Signs of dysphagia include:
- A choking sensation when eating or drinking
- Coughing when eating or drinking
- Feeling as though food items are stuck in your throat or chest
- Feeling as though you cannot chew your food properly
- Saliva escaping the mouth
- Weight loss
- Persistent chest infections
Treatment options and the potential for a cure will depend on the root cause of the dysphagia.
It is not unusual that a person with dysphagia will use a food thickener to help control the movement of fluids through the body. Fluids can be particularly difficult for dysphagia sufferers to manage because they are harder to control than larger food items.
A SimplyThick gel can be added to liquid foods and fluids to enhance the consistency, therefore assisting a person with dysphagia. Doing so is strictly to manage the symptom of the condition and is not considered a treatment or a cure.
Treatment options include:
- A surgical procedure to widen the esophagus
- Tube feeding through the nose or stomach
- Dietary changes
- Speech therapy to improve swallowing technique
Living with Dysphagia
This is a condition that can afflict a person of any age, but it is more commonly experienced by older people.
A person with dysphagia may find it very challenging to eat or drink normally, and this can affect their quality of life and independence in a number of ways.
It is possible that this condition can cause breathing difficulties during eating or that a food item may obstruct the windpipe. This can, of course, be quite dangerous and will likely require medical attention and intervention.
The risks of living with dysphagia make it a complicated condition to manage, and it is always preferable to address the root cause of the issue with the view to finding an effective treatment plan. This can help a patient return to a more normal way of life regarding how they eat and drink.