What is Dysphagia?
Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) is common among all age groups, especially the elderly. The term dysphagia refers to the feeling of difficulty passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. This may be caused by many factors, most of which are temporary and not threatening. Difficulties in swallowing rarely represent a more serious disease, such as a tumor or a progressive neurological disorder.
How is Dysphagia Treated?
Treatment is tailored to the particular cause of the swallowing disorder. Many swallowing disorders may be helped by direct swallowing therapy. A Speech & Language Pathologist can provide special exercises for coordinating the swallowing muscles or stimulating the nerves that trigger the swallow reflex. Some patients with swallowing disorders have difficulty in feeding themselves. An occupational therapist or Speech & Language Pathologist can aid the patient and family in feeding techniques.
Surgery is used to treat certain problems. If a narrowing exists in the throat or esophagus, the area may need to be stretched or dilated. If a muscle is too tight, it may need to be dilated or released surgically. This procedure is called a cricopharyngeal myotomy and can be performed trans-orally without the need for external incisions and prolonged hospital stay.