Dysphagia is a condition that can present for a multitude of reasons. It is a health issue that is characterized by difficulty swallowing foods and liquids. This can quickly become a serious problem, and it is essential that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If you are suffering from dysphagia, then it is important that you find ways to manage your condition. Failure to do so could impact your health in long-lasting ways.
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Symptoms of Dysphagia
Difficulty swallowing is the main symptom of dysphagia. It is also likely that you will experience pain while attempting to swallow, that you will experience frequent heartburn, that you will be unable to prevent saliva from leaving the mouth, and that you will unexpectedly regurgitate food and fluids. All of these symptoms can make this quite a challenging condition to manage and to live with.
It is also normal to expect that you will lose weight when you are suffering from this condition as eating becomes challenging. You may also find that you begin to feel the effects of poor nutrition and dehydration.
If you have difficulty with swallowing, then you should consult with your doctor immediately.
The following diagnostic tests may be offered:
- CT scan
- Swallowing tests and monitoring
- Physical and visual examination
- Endoscopic investigation of the throat
- Testing of the throat muscles
Dysphagia will usually present due to a primary health concern. Once the cause of your swallowing trouble has been discovered, then your doctor will be able to advise you how best to treat and manage the symptoms, as well as what to do about the underlying condition that has caused your dysphagia.
Managing Your Symptoms
Swallowing liquids can be particularly difficult when you have dysphagia. SimplyThick gel can be used to thicken fluids to make them easier to swallow. This gel can be added to any liquid, such as milk, tea, soup, or coffee.
Addressing your diet and making alterations can also help to manage the symptoms of dysphagia. Combining certain foods will make swallowing easier, as can following a special diet as set out by your doctor.
In severe cases, tube feeding may become necessary to avoid malnutrition, dehydration, and extreme weight loss.
A nasogastric tube can be used to direct food through the nose and down the back of the throat into the stomach. A percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube is another option. A PEG tube can be fed directly into the stomach by making a small incision through the skin of the abdomen.
Tube feeding is an effective way to ensure patients receive all of the necessary macro and micronutrients, as well as helping them to remain hydrated.
Many dysphagia patients will be able to alleviate the severity of their symptoms with the help of swallowing therapies, and this is a course of action your doctor will likely suggest.
A speech and language therapist will teach you techniques and exercises to improve your ability to swallow.
Through the effective management of your symptoms, you can work to reduce the impact of dysphagia on your life.