If you find it difficult to pass food or liquid from your mouth to your stomach, you may have a swallowing disorder or dysphagia. Symptoms may include: a feeling that food is sticking in your throat, discomfort in your throat or chest, a sensation of a ‘lump’ in your throat, coughing or choking.
A disorder may occur in any part of the swallowing process such as the mouth, pharynx (tube at the back of the throat that connects your mouth with your oesophagus), oesophagus (food pipe that takes food to your stomach) or stomach.
Causes of dysphagia include: the common cold, gastro-oesophageal reflux, stroke or a tumour.
Diagnosis may be made by examination of the pharynx, oesophagus and stomach using a small, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end that is inserted down the back of your throat. Examination may be conducted in the office, without sedation, with information immediately available.
Treatments for dysphagia depend on the causes, but may include:
- medication – antacids, muscle relaxants or medicine to slow down stomach acid production
- changes in diet and/or lifestyle
- Swallowing therapy to strengthen muscles and rehabilitate affected areas
- Surgery e.g. stretching or releasing a tightened muscle, helping close an exposed airway and prevent aspiration of food or fluid into the lungs, removing a pouch or pocket, lifting the voicebox, or Botox treatment to hyperactive muscles.
For further information about swallowing disorders, see here.