Dysphagia is not as much as a condition as it is one of the prime cluster of symptoms that indicate other, more severe conditions. Dysphagia refers to swallowing difficulties in general, but there are different types of dysphagia. It can be temporary, occasional or permanent, depending on the underlying cause.
Then there is the severity to consider. Since dysphagia often leads to choking, the mismanagement of the more severe symptoms can even lead to death. As we now have a basic understanding of what dysphagia, is, let’s get a better understanding of the reason why we are calling it a cluster of symptoms, rather than just one symptom.
Dysphagia: A Cluster of Symptoms
Once again, it depends on what the underlying cause is, but in all cases of dysphagia, the patient will experience some or all of the following signs.
- Pain while swallowing solid and liquid food, including water.
- Inability to swallow food and/or water.
- Frequent choking and coughing while eating and/or drinking.
- Feeling like there is food stuck in the esophagus or the throat.
- The symptoms above are often followed by reduced food/water intake and fast, unhealthy weight loss.
- Drooling while awake and without realizing.
- Cracked voice.
How to Manage Dysphagia?
Your physician will treat the underlying cause and will guide you with the medical procedures, as he/she deems necessary. However, you can address your swallowing difficulties on your own by using a food and drink thickener like SimplyThick. You do not need a prescription to buy and use a food thickener, and yet it works remarkably well for most patients.
In fact, food and drink thickeners save several people suffering from extreme dysphagia every year, by negating the need for them to have a feeding tube installed. As previously mentioned, dysphagia is a cluster of symptoms and not the disease itself, therefore, this is a solution that has a very high likelihood of helping your dysphagia, although it will not have any effect on the original cause.
What Causes Dysphagia?
Dysphagia can be a result of one or more diseases, but only a diagnostic physician can confirm the reason, after conducting a thorough medical examination, supported by medical test reports. Nevertheless, the following should provide us with an idea of what can cause dysphagia:
- Esophageal stricture
- Scar tissue from GERD
- Malignant and benign tumors
- Pharyngoesophageal diverticulum disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases
- Esophageal diffuse spasm
- Eosinophilic esophagitis
How to Identify Dysphagia
If dysphagia has been positively identified by a physician, then they will order medical examinations that are known to prove the presence of swallowing disorders beyond doubt. Therefore, your first step should be that of seeking medical help from a certified physician.
They may order two or more tests such as the barium X-ray, dynamic barium swallow test, manometry, and endoscopy to confirm their suspicions. In some cases, the doctor may choose to order MRI scans and/or CT scans as well, but it could be more about detecting the underlying cause than to confirm dysphagia itself.