Swallow facts about Dysphagia, else you may even die

The apparently non descript disorder is a high risk medical condition

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New Delhi: The term Dysphagia, the difficulty in swallowing food, may sound little strange in India but in fact is a high risk and may be quite common medical condition. This is about difficulty in swallowing food. The medical condition may result into a catastrophe in which the food enters the wind pipe. But the upside is it is curable and even exercise may turn out a great help.

 

Talking to Medicare News, Dr. Govathi Nikhila Karpuram ,Dysphagiologist- Speech Pathologist , Medanta – The Medicity said, ‘ The crux is diagnosis. Once this medical condition is diagnosed, its complete management can be done through simple rehabilitation regimen. But it is a high risk condition in the sense that it may even lead to death if left untreated.’

Dr Karpuram, regarded as one of the best Dysphagia specialists in India, has done extensive research on this medical condition. Dr Kapuram further said, ‘ Dysphagia is commonly described as swallowing difficulty. It is a problem in which the patient has difficulty in moving food / liquid from the mouth to the stomach. Sometimes it may associated with pain while swallowing .Occasional difficulty in swallowing, which may occur when the patient eat too fast or don’t chew the food well enough, usually isn’t cause for concern. But persistent dysphagia may indicate a serious medical condition and require treatment. In India it may be a nascent speciality  but USA it is common problem and there is validated management protocol.’

Dysphagia can occur at any age, but it’s more common in older people. The causes of swallowing problems vary, and treatment depends on the cause. The muscles of the head and neck move intricately for many functions. Beyond articulating words with the tongue and lips, the muscles of the mouth and throat must work in synchrony in the essential process of swallowing.

Causes

  • Weakness of nerves or muscles that controls motor and sensory functions.
  • Certain medications can lead to dysphagia.
  • After stroke.
  • In Head and Neck cancer patients.
  • In Brain tumors, COPD, Dementia, Parkinsonism , Motor Neuron-diseases.

Symptoms

  • Coughing, throat clearing, or choking during or right after eating or drinking
  • Wet-sounding voice during or after eating or drinking
  • Extra effort, time, or pain with swallowing
  • Food or liquid dripping from the mouth, getting stuck, or being held in the mouth
  • Recurring pneumonia or chest congestion
  • Weight loss or dehydration from not being able to eat or drink enough
  • Difficulty swallowing medications
  • Increasing difficulty eating independently
  • Inability to contain saliva in the mouth

Dysphagia can be a serious medical condition. Persistent difficulty in the process of swallowing can have a deep impact on a person, mentally and physically. Malnutrition, dehydration, and un-expected weight loss can occur when it is difficult, slow, or painful to obtain the proper nutrients and liquids by mouth.When food or liquid enters the airway, aspiration occurs and can lead to upper respiratory infections or pneumonia. It is very important to note that after a stroke, sensation in the throat may be reduced; food or liquid may enter the lungs without the person’s knowledge and silent aspiration can occur.

Psychologically, dysphagia can result in a lack of preference or interest in eating, embarrassment when dining in a restaurant or around others, or isolation in social situations that involve eating. Modified-texture food and beverages may be difficult to obtain, expensive to purchase, or generally unappetizing.

If you know someone who is undergoing this situation might have dysphagia, Consult a doctor for a referral to a speech pathologist /Dysphagiologist.  A Dysphagiologist with expertise in swallowing disorders can determine if a patient is suffering from dysphagia by:

  • Taking a thorough history of the signs, symptoms, and medical condition he/she is experiencing, also noting any medications one is taking.
  • Performing an oral mechanism exam to evaluate the strength, sensation, and movement of the lips, tongue, cheeks, and larynx.
  • Observing patient during a meal or while swallowing liquids to note the Aspiration signs, behavior, posture, and oral actions.
  • If silent Aspiration / micro-aspiration was suspected then Dysphagiologist will plan for an Objective Evaluation like Modified barium swallow study to observe the swallowing process under an x-ray called video fluoroscopy. Also performing an endoscopic assessment (called FEES) using a lighted tube with a camera inserted through your nose to view the swallowing process.

Treatment for Dysphagia

Managing dysphagia with the expertise of a speech-language therapist can only help people improve the impairments responsible for the dysphagia or utilize techniques to help compensate for lost function.

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