Dysphagia, in medical terminology, is a word than means having trouble swallowing. A complex process, swallowing involves reflexes that mostly have to do with the oesophagus and the pharynx, but also involve the brain. No thought is involved in the swallowing process as it is an automated process; it occurs automatically when food reaches the back of the throat. Due to the complexity involved, dysphagia, or swallowing difficulty, can be triggered by a number of sources.
The following may cause swallowing difficulties to occur: conscious promotion of swallowing; movement of food to the pharynx; closure of the nasal passages while swallowing; opening of the oesophagus; physical blockages preventing food from passing through successfully. Due to diseases in the muscles that control the pharynx or oesophagus, a swallowing problem may occur. Quite simply, swallowing difficulties fall into two types: oropharyngeal (those caused by an issue in the mouth or pharynx) or oesophageal (those caused by an issue in the oesophagus, the food conduit running from the mouth to the stomach).
Two types of symptoms exist for dysphagia: those which are related to swallowing, and those which are not. Swallowing related issues among elderly individuals can happen because of dentures and the lack of ability to correctly chew up their food, that can lead to swallowing big chunks of food that get lodged in the oesophagus. Although, this commonly does happen only when there exist additional problems in the pharynx or oesophagus, like an instance of a stricture.
However, usually people with dysphagia feel as though food is stuck, and this sensation can cause them to cough or regurgitate food. Another symptom of swallowing difficulties is the lack of ability to control food or saliva in the mouth. This can lead to swallowing issues, choking, eating problems and pneumonia. One important exception to this sequence is when the subject is experiencing difficulty swallowing liquids instead of solids. This is referred to achalasia and results when there are issues that cause a narrowing of the lower oesophagus, which in turn causes problems throughout its entire length.
Various treatment methods are available for those that experience painful swallowing, and the treatment normally results in stable and progressive improvement. Dysphagia that results from a stroke is an exception, but this form of dysphasia normally improves over time. Treatment and therapy will be determined by the prognosis for the exact cause of the swallowing problems. Therapy will be pegged to the underlying cause and will be modified as the patient responds to treatment.
Generally speaking, the prognosis for swallowing issues due to non-malignant obstruction in the oesophagus is positive and will respond well to treatment. Even if swallowing issues are the result of a malignant obstruction, stenting or an endoscopic resection of part of the tumour can be performed to ameliorate the condition. Treatment is generally very effective for comparable disorders such as achalasia, or trouble in swallowing liquids. Additionally, new developments have been made into oesophageal function due to the invention of high resolution images and 3D manometry.
Frequently difficulties swallowing are the only obvious manifestation of dysphagia. This is a relatively common issue and can happen for a variety of reasons. Evidence indicates that many patients who have trouble swallowing tablets wind up crushing them or dissolving them in water. While sometimes this is an ideal solution, care must be taken with this approach and patients are advised to check with their physician prior to taking this step. As they know of nothing else they could possibly do, patients often end up crushing the tablets.
They are other alternatives available to you if you are experiencing difficulty swallow a pill. The first thing to do is to find out if the medication comes in alternative versions. Sometimes medications are available as liquids, dispersibles, buccals or as oro-dispersible tablets. As some drugs cannot be sold directly by a pharmacist, they must first be prescribed by a physician. A pharmacist will help give you additional advice on this matter. Occasionally a physician or pharmacist will recommend that a pill be dissolved in water prior to swallowing it if there are issues involved in swallowing pills whole. However, this should only be done when advised by a medical professional. If there aren’t any oral options, then it’s worth asking whether there’s a patch, cream or inhaled version available. While this may be restricted, consulting with a professional is a good idea if you find it too challenging to swallow a pill.