January 20, 2010

Information On Types of Swallowing Disorders

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Swallowing disorders are known as dysphagia and can be caused by several conditions:

Diagnosis: If a patient feels that he has problems swallowing, then a gastroenterologist will carry out a complete check up to determine the cause of the swallowing problem. In some cases, if the disorder is occurring because of a disease, then a speech-language pathologist might also examine the patient. The doctor will conduct a thorough examination and check the patient’s medical history. Others tests might be ordered and specialists can be consulted before reaching a decision. A video swallow study, barium swallow, and an endoscopy are common tests done to determine the reason behind swallowing disorders.

Treatment: The treatment plan will invariably depend upon the kind of swallowing problem that the patient has. If the swallowing disorder has been caused because of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, then the underlying condition is treated with medicines. If the problem is because of a motility disorder, the treatment required involves stretching the narrowed passages. If there are tumors or obstructions, then surgery might be necessary. Also, esophageal dysphagia could mean that the patient has esophageal cancer.

If the swallowing disorders are caused by Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injury or stroke, then the underlying condition needs to be treated. If tumors or vocal cord paralysis cause swallowing disorders, then surgery might be required. Sometimes a feeding tube might be necessary. Speech pathologists, neurologists and ENT doctors will make the diagnosis in this case.

More about Swallowing Disorders: To understand swallowing disorders, it is important to understand the swallowing process.

The mouth phase: This is that part of the process, when the person has to move the food to the throat.

The throat phase: In this the food is squeezed down the throat and the airway is closed to prevent choking.

The esophageal phase: Relaxing as well as tightening of the top and bottom of the food pipe and the process where the food is squeezed into the stomach. Swallowing disorders can be grouped into two categories:

Pharyngeal, Esophageal Dysphagia

Oropharyngeal Dysphagia: This problem happens before the food can reach the esophagus and often happens because of obstructions or neuromuscular disease. The patient often has problems when he begins to swallow his food. The food can reach the wind pipe instead or there might be coughing and choking. This can cause dehydration, poor nutrition and aspiration.

Esophageal Dysphagia: These originate in the esophagus and are often caused by mechanical causes or motility problems. This condition may cause swallowed food to back up or it may cause a feeling of not having swallowed a bolus of food even after it has been swallowed.

We suggest you visit a doctor when you suspect any swallowing problems.