Dysphagia, or difficulty in swallowing, can be caused by a number of different conditions, including stroke, head injury, mouth or throat tumours or gastro-oesophageal reflux. The treatment for dysphagia will depend on the exact cause of the condition and where in the body the difficulty occurs. For example, oropharyngeal or ‘high’ dysphagia occurs in the mouth or throat, whereas oesophageal or ‘low’ dysphagia occurs in the oesophagus (the gullet).
Dysphagia can lead to additional problems, such as choking or coughing when food goes down the ‘wrong way’, blocking your airway. If this causes you to fear drinking and eating, it can lead to dehydration and malnutrition. Other patients with dysphagia tend to develop chest infections, including aspiration pneumonia, which may require medical treatment.
Almost inevitably, dysphagia adversely affects the quality of your life.