Dysphagia (Pronounced Dys-PHAY-gee-ah) refers to difficulty swallowing. It originates from the greek roots dys-, meaning bad and phaegin meaning to eat or swallow. Dysphagia is a symptom that can arise anywhere along the swallowing tract, from the lips to the stomach.
Common causes include:
- neurological disorders (i.e. stroke, Parkinson’s, brain injury, myasthenia gravis, ALS)
- structural problems along the swallowing tract (i.e. tumor, diverticulum, stricture)
- general weakness.
Diagnostic Tests and Procedures
One of the dangers of dysphagia is aspiration, or food and liquid entering the airway. A variety of treatment approaches are available, depending on the underlying cause and severity. Treatment may include:
- Modifying food and liquid textures such as thickening liquids or avoiding certain consistencies
- Modifying head and/or body position during meals
- Changing the manner of eating and drinking
- Exercises to improve strength, speed and coordination of swallowing
- Exercises to improve airway protection during swallowing
- Electrical stimulation of the swallowing muscles to increase strength and coordination
- Surgery to repair muscle valve and voice box function
- Balloon endoscopy to widen and reopen a constricted esophagus
- Medication to prevent esophageal spasms or lower the production of stomach acid.
Difficulty swallowing is a symptom, AU Health team can help find the cause
It’s something most of us likely take for granted — until we can’t do it. But the process is anything but simple, and for some, with a condition known as dysphagia or difficulty swallowing, it can seem downright impossible.