Don’t worry, Dysphagia is just a medical way to say ‘difficulty in swallowing’. Some people have difficulty in swallowing altogether, while some sufferers only have trouble with certain foods or liquids.
Dysphagia is often a complication of other illnesses, including some cancers; conditions such as a stroke, a head injury, or multiple sclerosis, which affect the nervous system; or conditions which may have caused scarring of the oesophagus, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. It can sometimes affect children with learning difficulties too.
The symptoms of Dysphagia include the sensation that food is stuck, bringing food back up through the mouth or nose, pain when swallowing, or just the complete inability to swallow. It can be very debilitating when someone develops dysphagia, as they may find their social life and home life suffer, due to the fact the may not be able to enjoy meals and drinks like everyone else. For someone who has previously had an active social life, it can be very distressing.
The major effects of dysphagia can be malnourishment and dehydration, resulting in weight loss over time. Thankfully, there are many ways to treat dysphagia, depending on the type you have. Treatments can include dietary changes, such as changing the viscosity or texture of your food or the use of advanced medical nutrition , swallowing therapy, or in more severe cases, the use of feeding tubes to help get nutritional solutions into the body. Some medications may help, and there are even surgical solutions, including inserting of a stent, or dilation if your dysphagia is a result of scarring.
Children who are born with dysphagia are treated a little differently depending on why they suffer. For example, a child with a cleft lip or palate tend to be treated surgically, while a child with cerebral palsy will be taught to swallow, and may use feeding tubes for a while.
Dysphagia does not have to ruin your life. As you can see, it is often very treatable, if not curable completely. While it may be a long term illness, it is something very manageable in most cases. More information can be found online, as well as support groups for sufferers and their carers.