What is Dysphagia?
Having difficulty swallowing is referred to as dysphagia and may be a symptom of GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or acid reflux disease. Dysphagia affects your esophagus, the tubular organ that carries food content from your mouth to your stomach. It may cause pain, tightness or a sticky feeling in your throat and chest. Some patients also complain of trouble breathing.
If you’re having trouble getting food from your mouth into the upper part of your esophagus, then you have what medical professionals would call oropharyngeal dysphagia. You may find that swallowing makes you choke, cough or regurgitate content through your nose. Food might also travel down your respiratory or air pipes while you are trying to eat.
If food gets into your esophagus easily enough but then struggles to move down into the stomach, then you may have esophageal dysphagia. This condition is much more common among dysphagia patients. Symptoms include heartburn and other uncomfortable feelings in your chest around meal times, a sore throat and frequent gassiness or belching.
Your GI doctor can help you treat dysphagia and make it easier for you to eat and swallow with many different methods, depending on the level of seriousness and any complications associated with your specific case. Typically, going to the hospital is unnecessary unless it becomes very difficult to breathe suddenly or if you’re so unable to eat that you’ve lost a significant amount of healthy weight. If you have eaten a piece of food that has gotten stuck in your esophagus and isn’t clearing, you should go to an ER immediately to have it evaluated. Children are also frequently hospitalized for dysphagia as a precaution.
Possible tests and treatment options include physical therapy to exercise your throat muscles, manometry, therapeutic endoscopy to dilate your throat using a balloon or medications to ease the symptoms of GERD and regulate acid production in your stomach. Surgery may be necessary depending on the etiology of the dysphagia. Contact a GI doctor for a consultation if you have trouble swallowing.
Please contact our Gastroenterology Specialists for diagnosis and treatment of dysphagia. To schedule a consultation, call 605.217.5500.