Dysphagia

We offer consultation and diagnosis for dysphagia; a condition where you have difficulty swallowing certain foods or drinks - or can’t swallow at all.

I have a question about dysphagia

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty with swallowing. You may not be able to swallow certain foods or liquids or be able to swallow anything at all. A dysphagia test can help identify whether you need treatment*.

*Please note: we do not offer therapy or treatment for dysphagia.

What are the causes of dysphagia?

Dysphagia can be caused by several different conditions including stroke, head injury, mouth or throat tumours or gastroesophageal reflux (GORD). 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 anxiety around drinking and eating, it can lead to dehydration and malnutrition and affect your day to day wellbeing.

What are the symptoms of dysphagia?

Symptoms of dysphagia vary from person to person. You may have difficulty swallowing solid foods but are able to manage fluids. Other people experience the opposite and struggle to swallow liquids, including their own saliva, but can eat solids. We might carry out a swallowing test to gauge how you react and whether you have any symptoms.

You may have additional symptoms, including:

  • Pain when you swallow
  • A sore throat
  • Coughing or choking
  • Regurgitating food or stomach acids
  • A feeling that food has become stuck behind your breastbone
  • Heartburn (a burning sensation behind your breastbone)
  • Hoarseness or difficulty speaking

You might notice symptoms with certain food and drinks that are common triggers for acid reflux, such as:

  • Citrus fruits and juice
  • Tomato-based products
  • Fried or fatty foods
  • Alcohol and caffeinated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
What is treatment for dysphagia?

Dysphagia treatment* depends on whether your swallowing problem is in the mouth or throat (oropharyngeal dysphagia), or in the oesophagus (oesophageal dysphagia). In some cases, treating any underlying cause - such as mouth or oesophageal cancer - with surgery or an operation can help relieve dysphagia.

Oropharyngeal dysphagia

For oropharyngeal dysphagia, your Consultant may refer you to a speech or swallowing therapist. Your therapy could include:

  • Exercises to help coordinate your swallowing muscles or stimulate the nerves that trigger the swallowing reflex
  • Learning new ways to put food in your mouth or ways to position your body and head to make it easier for you to swallow

Oesophageal dysphagia

Treatment for oesophageal dysphagia may include:

  • Medication for dysphagia – if your dysphagia is related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) it can be treated with a prescription medicine to reduce stomach acid oesophageal dilation – if you have a tight oesophageal sphincter (achalasia) or an oesophageal stricture, your clinician may use an endoscope with a special balloon attached to gently stretch and expand the width of your oesophagus or pass a flexible tube or tubes to stretch the oesophagus (dilation)
  • Dysphagia surgery may be recommended to relieve dysphagia caused by throat narrowing or blockages or to treat oesophageal cancer. You may also need speech and swallowing therapy after your surgery

*Please note: we do not offer therapy or treatment for dysphagia

Can I treat dysphagia at home?

If you have trouble swallowing, you should always make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible. However, there are some things you can try at home to ease your symptoms:

  • Try eating smaller meals more frequently. Be sure to cut your food into smaller pieces, chew your food thoroughly and eat more slowly
  • Try foods with different textures and avoid those which cause you more trouble than others
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, which can make acid reflux worse

Contact us to arrange a consultation

It's easy to find out more about treatment by giving us a call or completing our enquiry form.