What is dysphagia?

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Dysphagia refers to the difficulty in swallowing.  This medical condition may be caused by problems involving the muscles for swallowing or by nerve damage that is linked to issues in the brain.  For motor or muscle problems, dysphagia may involve problems in the tongue or throat area or deep in the esophagus area.  Pain or inflammation in these areas may cause people to have difficulty in swallowing food or water.  There are also cases wherein the normal swallowing mechanism is disrupted because of nerve problems that originate from problems in the brain.  In this latter case, the normal swallowing process cannot proceed efficiently because the structures involved are not supplied enough by the nervous system.

When dysphagia involves the tongue and throat area, it is classified as oropharyngeal type of dysphagia.  This type of dysphagia often results from a neurological problem.  People who had a stroke for example will have problems with their tongue and throat in terms of sensory and motor support from the brain. If the nerve supply of the tongue and throat muscles is cut off after suffering a stroke, a person is expected to have difficulty in swallowing.  The tongue for example will not be able to push food towards the end of the throat because of the lack of nerve supply.  The other type of dysphagia is called esophageal dysphagia and as its name suggests, the affectation is on the esophagus.  Common causes for the esophageal type include inflammation or blockage in this area.

Treatment of dysphagia varies depending on the actual cause. For stroke patients, a feeding tube may be inserted in the early stages.  Normal eating and swallowing will then be practiced by the patients later.  For inflammatory concerns, these must also be addressed accordingly with the right methods and medication.  In the case of blockage due to masses and tumors, these must be removed through excision or chemotherapy.

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