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What is a Swallowing Disorder?

Have you ever had issues when swallowing where it feels like what you just ate is stuck, or perhaps you might have that “brick on your chest” feeling after you eat something?

You might be experiencing a type of swallowing disorder.

Swallowing is actually a pretty complex function. These muscle movements are vital, coordinating together to perform something that seems simple. Disorders may result from a lack of this coordination of the nerves or muscles.

There are two types of Swallowing Disorders:

  • Dysphagia – the sensation of food being “stuck” or any throat issue leading to coughing or choking, or even feeling that the passageway is blocked.

  • Odynophagia – pain in the chest or throat when swallowing

When you’re experiencing a swallowing disorder, you may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Nasal regurgitation – food or fluid goes into the nose (when the nasopharynx doesn’t close properly)

  • Regurgitation – return of liquid or food back into the mouth after swallowing. (When this happens take notice of whether it tastes like ingested food or if it tastes bitter or sour. If bitter or sour, it is more than likely GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).

  • Choking or coughing immediately after swallowing

  • The feeling that food is “sticking” or having difficulty passing through the esophagus

  • Chest pain or discomfort

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sore throat or hoarseness

What can be done about swallowing disorders?

 

Discuss your issues with your ENT. Your doctor will do a thorough physical examination and write down your symptoms to determine the next steps. There are tests that can be done to find the cause of the symptoms:

  • Endoscopy – performed by a Gastroenterologist to examine the esophagus and the stomach to look for any types of blockages, tumors, or other barriers or disruptions.

  • Barium Esophagram – x-ray evaluation of the swallowing process (mouth, pharynx, and esophagus)

  • Esophageal Monometry – this is a much more strategic process, which shows the changes in pressure when you swallow. It provides a very detailed look at how your muscles are functioning.

  • Wireless pH Testing – a small chip is placed in the esophagus to measure of reflux activity over a 2 day period.

  • 24 Hour pH impedance– measures the amount of reflux, because you could be experiencing GERD instead of a swallowing disorder.

Depending on your diagnosis, there are several ways to treat your swallowing disorder. It may be a change in diet or eating habits, or it could be medications or possible surgery. All cases are different. If you feel like you are experiencing these issues, speak with your ENT right away to determine further action.

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