Swallowing Problems: Do You Have Dysphagia?

There are so many possible causes that can lead to dysphagia that it is not restricted to any age group at all. Although the symptoms are more prevalent in aging adults and seniors, dysphagia can affect much younger individuals as well. If you or someone close to you has had swallowing problems for a while, do go through the following to get a better understanding of dysphagia, its symptoms, and possible management options.

 

Understanding Dysphagia

Dysphagia is not a condition on its own, but a broad term that classifies a cluster of symptoms related to swallowing difficulties. Although all symptoms may or may not be present in one patient, the following examples should provide readers with a clear picture of what to expect.

  • Consistent partial or complete inability to swallow food and/or drink properly.
  • Difficulty even beginning the swallowing process.
  • Painful and difficult swallowing, often accompanied by choking, coughing, and gagging.
  • Raspy voice, sore throat.
  • Unintentional drooling while awake.
  • Tendency to regurgitate food.
  • Frequent acidity, heartburn, indigestion, and consequent weight loss.
  • Feeling of food getting stuck somewhere in the throat or esophagus, especially around the celiac plexus.

If someone is experiencing several of these symptoms, they should immediately seek medical assistance to determine the underlying cause.

Confirming Dysphagia

Dysphagia can only be confirmed by qualified medical practitioners after going through reports from diagnostic tests such as the barium test, endoscopy, and manometry. As previously mentioned, dysphagia is a cluster of symptoms that may indicate any one or multiple possible conditions/diseases that lead to swallowing difficulties. Therefore, your physician may administer other diagnostic examinations as well to identify the root cause of your swallowing difficulties.

After your medical practitioner manages to diagnose the original problem, they will proceed with treating or managing the disease/condition as best as possible. Since dysphagia is a cluster of symptoms that are a result of that underlying condition, curing dysphagia exclusively is not an option. That being said, there are well-established strategies to manage dysphagia effectively and we will discuss them next.

Managing Dysphagia

Swallowing water, tea, coffee, fruit juice, or any other beverage is a very difficult and often dangerous task for someone suffering from dysphagia. The good news is that this can be mitigated by applying a food and/or drink thickener to beverages before attempting to drink anything.

Starch thickeners work but they also pose a serious health risk to diabetics. Given that the patient would have to consume starch every single time they need to have a glass of water or drink a cup of coffee, long-term use of starch thickeners can have a detrimental impact on someone suffering from diabetes.

SimplyThick Easy Mix food and beverage thickener is made from xanthan gum instead of starch, which means that it can indeed be safely consumed by even diabetic dysphagia patients every day, as many times as needed.

Barring extreme circumstances where the patient has lost their ability to swallow completely, most forms of dysphagia can be managed by changing the consistency of what the patient attempts to eat or drink. For example, balanced meals can be pureed easily into a thick, easy-to-swallow consistency with the help of a blender.

When and if necessary, even blended and smushed food can be further thickened with a food thickener for better ingestion. In most instances, dysphagia patients who suffer from severe swallowing difficulties also find it much easier to ingest pureed, thickened food.

 

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