If you’re experiencing difficulty swallowing, it’s essential to talk to your doctor about what’s happening. Many people assume that chewing and swallowing are automatic processes, but there can be a wide range of reasons why these actions may become difficult.
What is Dysphagia?
Dysphagia is a disorder that makes it difficult to swallow food, liquids, and saliva. It can manifest in a variety of ways, including difficulty chewing food, drooling or coughing when swallowing, and regurgitating undigested or partially digested food.
There are many diseases, injuries, and conditions that cause dysphagia. Some of the most common causes include stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and head injuries from car accidents or falls.
Due to the difficulty of dysphagia, many who have the disorder will need extra support with eating and drinking. After a thorough examination from a Speech and Language therapist (SLT), a thickening agent might be prescribed for use. For example, SimplyThick consistency is helpful for dysphagia patients, offering a way to thicken liquids and making it easier for patients to swallow.
There are various symptoms that could be a sign that you are experiencing swallowing issues. While these symptoms may vary, here are four of the most common signs:
You have a frequent heartburn
Frequent heartburn is a common sign of dysphagia because it’s an indication that the food you’re trying to swallow is getting stuck in your throat. If you have dysphagia, the muscles that help push food down your esophagus and into your stomach are often weak or paralyzed. This means that the food isn’t able to slide smoothly down your esophagus, so it just gets stuck there.
The more time a piece of food spends in your throat, the more likely it is to cause heartburn, and if you have dysphagia, you might spend long periods of time with food in your throat than people without this condition.
You have trouble keeping food or liquids down
If you feel like food or liquids are getting stuck in your throat, it could be a sign of swallowing issues. You may notice that the food feels like it’s choking or coughing up into your mouth as you eat.
This happens often and is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as feeling like something is stuck in the back of your throat and trouble breathing. If you experience this regularly, it’s time to seek medical attention.
You have unexplained weight loss
Weight loss is one of the most common symptoms of swallowing issues, and it’s usually a symptom that can be detected at home. Swallowing issues can lead to weight loss because they make it difficult or impossible for you to eat solid foods, which means you may rely more heavily on liquids or fluids.
If you’ve noticed unexplained weight loss, talk with your doctor about it. If you’re experiencing this symptom, your doctor will likely perform tests to determine the cause and recommend treatment options.
You can’t speak above a whisper
Hoarseness is a common sign of dysphagia because the larynx is affected by the condition. The larynx is a part of the respiratory system, and it’s responsible for producing sound during speech. If you have trouble swallowing, you may have trouble keeping your throat lubricated with saliva, affecting the larynx. This makes it more challenging to produce sound while speaking, resulting in hoarseness.
These are just a few indicators that may suggest swallowing problems. If these symptoms persist over time, consult your doctor, who can perform tests to determine if something is wrong with your swallowing muscles or vocal cords.