What is Dysphagia

Biological actions such as chewing, swallowing, and consuming food is performed over million times in a week. Eating food sounds like a simple process or course of action but it isn’t, once you know the facts. Food intake is one of the complex processes in which our brain, pharynx, larynx, and other neck muscle are involved. Food pipe and wind pipe lie side by side and our mouth is involved in two fundamental operations, respiration and consumption. The transportation of food from mouth to the food pipe and lastly to the stomach and it is a long course. Any problems which occurs during this process or sensation of pain while swallowing or eating  is known as Dysphagia.  

There are many actions that can create problems in swallowing, talking while eating and consciously tracking the entire eating process are two common examples. However, dysphagia is not a common disease as it is either caused by a problem in pharynx or food pipe. Pharynx is the posterior part of our throat and formation of tumor or any cyst is a common cause of dysphagia of pharynx. This tumor is usually benign in nature but it blocks free flow of food. This creates pressure on pharynx and on the tumor, which causes immense pain while swallowing. Contraction of food pipe as a result of unsuccessful suicide attempt can permanently damage food pipe and  results in dysphagia. Food pipe infection and inflammation are another causes of dysphagia. Thyroid and arthritis of neck also causes dysphagia.  

Usually, symptoms are related to swallowing as patients find food most difficult to swallow. Sticky feeling in the chest, throat and around the neck region is common. Coughing while eating and suffocation have been reported by dysphagia patients. In Severe dysphagia, patients are not able to drink water or any liquids. Dysphagia can lead to respiratory issues such as temporary asthma. Such problems are caused by sticking of food in the food pipe for a long time, like for hours. It indirectly affects patient’s appetite as patients develop chest filling feeling. If the food sticking incidents continues on regular basis then it causes food pipe infection which leads to pneumonia. Dysphagia causes irregularity in sleeping as patients usually experience sudden vomiting while asleep.     

Prevention and treatment
The cause of dysphagia is the factor which decides the treatment. Generally, doctors resort to feeding tube even before cracking the cause and the type of dysphagia. If tumor or cyst in pharynx is the cause then it has to be removed. The tumor is surgically removed if the condition is very serious. Tumor can cause cancer and chemotherapy is also implemented to remove the tumor. If dysphagia is caused by contraction of food pipe or any problem in food pipe then food pipe is expanded by using different means such as balloon. Many allergies and infections can cause dysphagia and corticosteroids are used to eliminate the infection.