Dysphagia diagnostics and solutions assistance is the subject for today. How is swallowing difficulty diagnosed? Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and when they began. Your doctor will do a physical examination and look in your oral cavity to check for abnormalities or swelling. More specialized tests may be needed to find the exact cause. A barium X-ray is often used to check the inside of the esophagus for abnormalities or blockages. During this examination, you will swallow liquid or a pill containing a dye that shows up on an abdominal X-ray. The doctor will look at the X-ray image as you swallow the liquid or pill to see how the esophagus functions. This will help identify any weaknesses or abnormalities.
Specific volumes of food per swallow may result in faster pharyngeal swallow responses. Clinicians modify the bolus size (i.e., bigger/smaller bolus amounts), particularly for patients that require a greater volume to adequately stimulate a swallow response or for patients that require multiple swallows per bolus. Patients may also require cuing and assistance to maintain an appropriate rate during meals. Impulsivity and/or decreased initiation are examples of cognitive deficits evident across a number of disorders that may affect a patient’s pace during meals. Postural techniques redirect the movement of the bolus in the oral cavity and pharynx and modify pharyngeal dimensions in a systematic way. Postural techniques may be appropriate to use with patients with neurological impairments, head and neck cancer resections, and other structure damage. Postural techniques may be used in patients of all ages. Examples of postural techniques include the following: Chin-down posture —the chin is tucked down toward the neck during the swallow, which may bring the tongue base closer to the posterior pharyngeal wall, narrow the opening to the airway, and widen the vallecular space. Find additional details on Swallowing problems.
A blockage or a malfunction anywhere in this part of the body or in the nervous system controlling swallowing can result in dysphagia. There are two types: Esophageal dysphagia occurs when food/liquid stops in the esophagus. This can happen in several ways. Stomach acid can reflux into the esophagus. Over time, the reflux causes inflammation and a narrowing (stricture) of the esophagus. Food and eventually liquids feel like they are sticking in the middle and lower chest. There may be chest discomfort or even real pain. Fortunately, physicians can usually dilate (widen) this narrowing, and there is now treatment available to keep it from returning. Cancer, hiatus hernia, and certain muscle disorders of the esophagus are less frequent causes of esophageal dysphagia. Solid food is usually more of a problem than liquids.
Liz is a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist based in New Orleans, Louisiana and the owner of Dysphagia in Motion. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees with honors from the University of Central Florida, with a dual-degree in Business Finance. In addition, Liz was granted a graduate certificate to serve English Learners with communication disorders through a research grant funded by the US Department of Education. Discover more details at www.dysphagiainmotion.com.