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3 Common Swallowing Disorders and How to Treat Them

When a person is first diagnosed with dysphagia or a swallowing problem, they may not know where to turn. However, this condition is very common and there is help for those who have been given this diagnosis. What are some common swallowing issues and how are they treated?

Parkinson’s Disease

Many people who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease find it hard to swallow. In fact, this condition affects up to 90 percent of patients with this condition. When a person with Parkinson's Disease eats, his or her mandible no longer functions properly and the tongue pumping that occurs when he or she chews is slowed. Throat muscles which are weak likewise make it harder to move the food to the esophagus where the next stage of digestion occurs. When the food does make it to the esophagus, the person may find it hard to swallow and this increases his or her risk of aspiration. This may be caused by an impairment of the upper extremities, impulsive feeding that is commonly seen with advanced stages of the disease, or cognitive impairment.

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)

GERD is a condition in which the valve at the base of the esophagus does not close properly when a person consumes food or a drink. As a result, the food or drink comes back up into the esophagus and leads to symptoms of heartburn or acid regurgitation. However, a person must experience symptoms two or more times a week before the doctor will run tests to determine if this is nothing more than heartburn, if it is GERD, or if something else is going on that needs to be further investigated. A number of treatments are available for individuals who suffer from this condition, ranging from the use of Simply Thick to surgery to correct a hiatal hernia that may be leading to symptoms. Doctors typically start with the least invasive treatment option and work their way through the treatments until they discover the one that is best for the patient.

Achalasia

Achalasia is another swallowing disorder that may interfere with a person’s ability to eat. Approximately 3,000 individuals in the United States are diagnosed with this condition each year, mostly adults. When a person with achalasia eats, the valve located at the base of the esophagus does not open as it should. As a result, the food backs up into the esophagus and the individual may find he or she vomits undigested food or suffers from weight loss, chest pains, and heartburn. Researchers have been unable to determine a cause for this condition but believe it may be related to a virus or to the body’s immune system attacking the nerve cells found in the muscle layers of the esophagus. Furthermore, this condition may put a person more at risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Any person who suspects they have a swallowing disorder should see a doctor immediately. Help is available for these patients and advances are being made in medicine every day. If a person cannot swallow correctly, he or she may become malnourished, lose weight, and put himself at risk of more serious conditions. Don’t allow this to happen when the right treatment can allow a person to enjoy food and drinks once again. It’s simply a matter of finding the cause and the right treatment plan.