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What Causes Dysphagia?


Dysphagia is a medical term for a condition involving difficulty swallowing. Some people may have trouble swallowing specific foods or liquids which have a certain consistency. Other sufferers may find they can’t swallow at all, while less obvious symptoms include frequently coughing or choking when attempting to eat or drink, difficulty chewing, an excess of saliva, and bringing food back up or feeling like it is stuck in your chest or throat after swallowing. The causes of dysphagia are listed below to help you gain a better understanding of the condition as a whole. Usually, the condition is caused by another health issue, but these can be varied.

The Two Types of Dysphagia

There are two main forms of dysphagia – either originating from issues with the mouth or throat (oropharyngeal dysphagia), or the esophagus (esophageal dysphagia). The esophagus is the tube that takes food from the mouth and throat to your stomach.

Treating Dysphagia

Usually, dysphagia can be managed, although it depends on which type of dysphagia (oropharyngeal or esophageal) you suffer from. The cause can also be a relevant factor, as sometimes treating the cause (in the case of cancer, for example) can remove the symptom of dysphagia.

Swallowing therapy is a form of treatment where certain exercises taught by professionals can make it easier to swallow. Dietary changes can also be helpful – softer foods and thicker fluids can be easier to ingest. Simply Thick is an example of a thicker nutritional gel which has the consistency of honey or pudding, and is a flexible medium to give sufferers a healthy diet. Feeding tubes have also been known to be used for this condition, especially in severe cases of dysphagia which prevent healthy nutrition leading to the sufferer becoming either malnourished, dehydrated, or both.

Developmental Conditions and Dysphagia

Some learning disabilities can cause dysphagia, as can groups of neurological conditions like cerebral palsy which affects motor skills.

Neurological Conditions and Dysphagia

Strokes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia and motor neuron disease are conditions which cause damage to the brain and nervous system. Over time, this damage can result in dysphagia.

Muscular Conditions and Dysphagia

If the muscles involved in pushing food down the esophagus are weakened or affected, then dysphagia can occur. Both scleroderma (where the immune system attacks healthy tissues in the body and leads to muscles in the throat and esophagus malfunctioning), and achalasia (where the esophagus muscles stiffen and are unable to relax, thereby restricting the passage of food down the esophagus) can cause the condition.

Obstructions and Dysphagia

Mouth cancer can cause obstructions in the throat or cause the esophagus to narrow, making swallowing a difficult task. Radiotherapy can also cause scar tissue to form in these areas, and throat infections can cause temporary dysphagia while the symptoms of an inflamed esophagus persist.

There are many causes of dysphagia, usually as a result of other conditions. It is important to understand why dysphagia happens in an individual in order to treat it appropriately – hopefully this article provided relevant information for your research into this condition.


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