Dysphagia is also known as difficulty swallowing as it takes more effort than usual to take the food to the stomach. Usually caused by muscle or nerve issues, dysphagia can be painful. It is more common in babies and older people.
Although dysphagia is regarded as a sign or symptom, it is often used for describing a condition in its own right. There are different causes of dysphagia, and there is no serious underlying problem if it happens once or twice.
What is dysphagia?
Swallowing anything that involves different nerves and muscles and makes it a complicated procedure is known as dysphagia. However, it occurs due to difficulty anywhere in the swallowing procedure.
Types of dysphagia
Following are its three types:
- Oral dysphagia (high dysphagia) is where the problem is in the mouth caused by tongue weakness after a stroke. The person might feel pain in transporting food from the mouth and difficulty in chewing food. Pharyngeal dysphagia is the one where the problem is in the throat. Issues in the throat are caused by neurological problems affecting the nerves—for example, stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
- Esophageal dysphagia (low dysphagia) is the one where the problem is in the esophagus. It happens due to irritation or blockage and requires a surgical procedure.
Causes of dysphagia
The following are the causes of dysphagia.
- An amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is an untreatable form of progressive neurodegeneration. The nerves in the brain and the spine lose their function over time.
- Achalasia, where the lower esophageal muscle does not relax enough for allowing food into the stomach
- Diffuse spasm where the muscles in the esophagus uncoordinatedly contract.
- A stroke happens when the brain cells die due to a lack of oxygen caused by reduced blood flow.
- The esophageal ring is a small section that the esophagus narrows and prevents the solid food from passing through.
- Eosinophilic esophagitis highly elevates the levels of eosinophils in the esophagus. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell present in the esophagus. These eosinophils proliferate, attacking the gastrointestinal system, leading to difficulty with swallowing food and vomiting.
- Multiple sclerosis occurs when the central nervous system is attacked by the destroying myelin, the immune system that protects the nerves.
- Myasthenia gravis (Goldflam disease) happens when the muscles under voluntary control become easily weak and exhausted. It occurs because there is some issue with the stimulation of nerves contracting the muscles.
- Parkinsonism syndromes and Parkinson’s disease is progressive where the degenerative neurological disorder impairs the patient’s motor skills.
Symptoms of dysphagia
Many people suffer from dysphagia and are unaware of it. The undiagnosed dysphagia may also lead to malnutrition and dehydration.
– Choking while eating
– Gagging or coughing while swallowing a loop
– Stomach or food acid backing up into the throat
– Rapid weight loss
– Regurgitation (bringing food back up)
– Unable to control food in the mouth
– Unable to control saliva in the mouth
Providing effective treatment is a challenge as dysphagia is often linked to neurological problems. However, it can be treated as per the patient’s condition via therapies, diet, dilation, and other ways.