For some older adults, having trouble swallowing when eating solid food and/or drinking liquids can cause a variety of challenges in their daily lives and cause worry for their families.
What is Dysphagia?
When you have trouble swallowing, this is called dysphagia. Difficulty swallowing means it takes more time and effort to move food or liquid from your mouth to your stomach. In some cases, the person may not be able to swallow at all.
Symptoms of Dysphagia
Some symptoms include coughing, choking, a gurgly voice, or the feeling of food being stuck in your throat when you eat. In other cases, there may be pain associated with the act of swallowing (odynophagia), being unable to swallow, drooling, regurgitation, frequent heartburn, and unexpectedly losing weight
According to the Mayo Clinic, due to natural aging and normal wear and tear on the esophagus and a greater risk of certain conditions, such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease, older adults are at higher risk of swallowing difficulties. But, dysphagia isn’t considered a normal sign of aging.
A condition that affects the nervous system, such as a stroke, head injury, or dementia. People with certain neurological or nervous system disorders are more likely to experience difficulty swallowing.
Cancer – such as mouth cancer or oesophageal cancer puts an individual at risk for developing dysphagia.
Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) – where stomach acid leaks back up into the esophagus can also cause difficulty swallowing foods and liquids.
A cure is not always possible with dysphagia, but appropriate treatment options can provide relief from pain and assist with the actions needed to swallow foods and liquids.
Exercise therapy to learn new swallowing techniques
Changing the consistency of food and liquids to make them safer to swallow.
Alternative forms of feeding, such as tube feeding through the nose or stomach
Surgery to widen the narrowing of the esophagus by stretching it or inserting a plastic or metal tube (known as a stent)
Medicines. If you have dysphagia related to GERD, heartburn, or esophagitis, prescription medicines may help prevent stomach acid from entering your esophagus.
If you or a loved one experiences difficulty swallowing foods and/or liquids, please consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment options.
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