The Various Types of Swallowing Disorders

January 12, 2023

When it comes to Gastro Care, the ability to swallow is fundamental. Swallowing disorders can range from mild to severe and can have a major impact on your life. Whether you are experiencing frequent choking, difficulty swallowing, or something entirely related to your digestion process, it is important that you understand the different types of swallowing disorders and how they may affect your daily routine. This blog post will outline the various forms of dysphagia—the medical term for swallowing disorders—exploring their causes, symptoms, and treatments. By understanding more about each disorder’s characteristics and what options exist for treatment, patients with any dysphagia can find ways towards a better quality of life.

Dysphagia – Difficulty Swallowing

Dysphagia, commonly known as difficulty swallowing, is a serious disorder that can impact a patient’s quality of life. Dysphagia can range from difficulty taking in solid food to an inability to swallow any food or liquid. Dysphagia requires medical attention, partly due to the risk of aspiration, which may result in pneumonia. There are many potential causes for Dysphagia, such as neurological impairments and certain tumors or diseases that can damage the swallowing mechanism or muscles. Determining the source and severity of Dysphagia typically involves an assessment, including physical evaluations and imaging exams. Treatment options vary depending on the cause but may include medications, dietary modification, physical therapy exercises, and even surgery if necessary. However, with appropriate care and awareness, Dysphagia could be managed responsibly and prevent further health complications.

Oropharyngeal Dysphagia – Swallowing Problems that Occur in the Mouth and Throat

Oropharyngeal Dysphagia is a disorder that affects the muscular and neurological functions of swallowing, leading to problems in the mouth and throat. Oropharyngeal Dysphagia can be caused by physical or neurological impairments such as stroke, brain tumor, and Huntington’s Disease. Symptoms may include difficulty initiating a swallow, liquid or food getting stuck in the back of the throat, wet or gurgly voice post-swallow, and frequent episodes of dysphagia. A physician must diagnose oropharyngeal Dysphagia as it may cause poor nutrition related to inadequate caloric intake from the inability to consume enough food during meals. Treatment plans depend on the type and cause of Oropharyngeal Dysphagia. Still, they could include speech therapy, certain medications, and surgical treatment. Speech-language pathologists are trained to evaluate patients for Oropharyngeal Dysphagia and help them manage their symptoms through strategies and exercises designed to strengthen the muscles used for swallowing.

Esophageal Dysphagia – Swallowing Problems that Occur in the Esophagus

The impairment of the normal swallowing process characterizes esophageal dysphagia. It occurs when food passes through the digestive system, specifically in the esophagus, and can cause uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms like food getting stuck during swallowing or a sensation that food is coming back up after it has been swallowed. Esophageal dysphagia could be caused by medical conditions such as GERD, Acid Reflux, or Esophageal Cancer. It can be assessed with an endoscopy, x-ray, or manometry. Treatments should always depend on the patient’s condition. Still, they could include strengthening exercises, medications to reduce reflux, and lifestyle changes to achieve a balanced diet. Esophageal dysphagia should never be taken lightly, and medical advice should always be sought if any signs of swallowing problems occur.

Neurological Disorders and Dysphagia

Neurological disorders can lead to many complications, with dysphagia being one of the more common. Dysphagia is difficulty or pain when swallowing, and it may be a symptom of a neurological disorder like stroke or Parkinson’s Disease. Dysphagia can range from mild to severe, depending on the underlying condition and any contributing factors such as medications or secondary conditions. Studies have found that dysphagia prevalence rates increase with the severity of a person’s neurological condition. Hence, early diagnosis and treatment for these disorders are essential for patient care. Neurologists must also be aware of this association to properly evaluate patient history and accurately diagnose and treat both dysphagia and other related health issues.

Treatments for Swallowing Disorders 

Treatments for swallowing disorders vary depending on the individual and the severity of the disorder. A speech-language pathologist, neurologist, otolaryngologist, or gastroenterologist may be consulted to determine the best course of treatment for a particular patient. Treatments could include medications aimed at decreasing inflammation and spasms in the throat muscles, lifestyle changes including a soft or pureed diet, postural training to improve oral-pharyngeal skills such as head tilt and chin tuck, exercises to increase throat muscle strength and range of motion, compensatory strategies like changing habits while eating or drinking liquids that aid safe swallowing, and other specialized therapies. The treatments tailored to an individual’s needs are designed to enable them to swallow successfully with improved strength and safety.

For More Information

Swallowing Disorders can range from minor to severe and life-threatening, depending on the individual case. It is important to understand how to detect early signs of a Swallowing Disorder and then seek medical advice when they happen. Red flags may include refusing foods or liquids, coughing or choking while eating or drinking, and unintentional weight loss. Recognizing these symptoms may help identify an issue quickly before it develops into something more serious. An accurate diagnosis of a Swallowing Disorder requires an interdisciplinary assessment with input from healthcare professionals such as an ENT specialist and/or Speech-Language Pathologist. These professionals can provide medical guidance and intervention that will assist in improving the swallowing disorder’s effects for those suffering from it. With improved treatment protocols and innovative technologies, there is potential for improvements in the overall quality of life for people with swallowing disorders. If you have questions about what type of swallowing disorder you might have, contact Gastro Florida today for more information.