Swallowing Difficulty

  • What is dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)?

A healthy swallowing function is extremely important for our body. Ingestion, by definition, refers to the journey of the food we eat and drink from the mouth to the stomach. This process, which we do hundreds of times during the day, is a very high-level function that occurs with the harmonious operation of dozens of muscles, cartilage and bone structures and takes place within seconds. All kinds of pathologies that occur during this journey of food can cause difficulty in swallowing.

  • What are the causes of swallowing difficulties?

Diseases that cause difficulty in swallowing mainly affect 3 main regions. The first of these is the mouth area. In this first stage of swallowing, food is made swallowable by chewing, and the tongue, lips, teeth and palate are our main structures. Therefore, all kinds of problems related to these structures can lead to difficulty in swallowing. The second region is the pharynx and larynx region. At this stage, which is the most important stage of swallowing, the foods that can be swallowed by chewing movements in our mouth are pushed down and directed to our esophagus. At this stage, the most important goal is not to aspirate the food into our windpipe. The third region is our esophagus. All kinds of pathologies related to this structure, which provides the transfer of nutrients to our stomach, naturally cause difficulty in swallowing.

All kinds of problems related to these 3 regions can result in difficulty in swallowing. This problem may be a disease involving muscle, bone or cartilage structures, or it may be a neurological disease that prevents these structures from working in harmony. In summary, dysphagia can be caused by a wide spectrum of diseases.

  • How is swallowing difficulty assessed?

Difficulty in swallowing is a complaint that should not be neglected or ignored, and should be thoroughly investigated. Every patient with swallowing problems must have an experienced person on the subject. ENT should be seen by your physician. Routine ENT In addition to the examination, the larynx and pharynx should be evaluated endoscopically, and in necessary cases, the patient should swallow food during the endoscopic examination and the swallowing function should be monitored in real time. Barium swallow study (serial films shot while the patient swallows)should be done absolutely, and in necessary cases, more advanced imaging and laboratory methods should be applied.

  • How is swallowing difficulty treated?

Treatment of swallowing difficulties varies depending on the cause. A limited group of patients can benefit from drug treatments. Reflux drugs, motility regulators, etc. can be counted in this group. The most important auxiliary method in the treatment of patients with chronic swallowing problems is swallowing therapy. It is possible to significantly eliminate the swallowing problem with approaches such as changing the consistency of foods, special exercises to strengthen the structures involved in swallowing, and some special maneuvers during swallowing. In a significant group of patients, surgical approaches have a corrective effect. Surgical treatments give very promising results in points such as drooling from the corner of the mouth, escaping the food into the nasal passage or trachea, and esophageal problems.

In summary, every patient with swallowing problems should be seen by an experienced ENT physician.

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