Treatment for Swallowing Disorders in Federal Way, WA
There are a variety of disorders that can affect the throat and its important functions, including conditions that can make it difficult to complete regular motions such as swallowing. While many people tend to think of the functionality of their throat as a simple process, the complex muscle coordination needed to swallow can actually become quite difficult for some, leading to problems while eating or digesting food.
Types of Swallowing Disorders
The most common type of swallowing disorder is known as dysphagia. This condition is characterized by a sticking feeling within the chest when food or fluid travels through the esophagus. The body will often react to this sensation by coughing, and some patients even report that they begin to choke when their swallowing is affected by dysphagia.
There is another type of swallowing disorder that causes significant pain within the throat or chest when the individual attempts to ingest any sort of food or beverage. This painful condition is called odynophagia.
Symptoms of a Swallowing Disorder
Aside from pain or a feeling that food is getting stuck within the throat, there are several other noteworthy symptoms that often signal a swallowing disorder. These symptoms include:
- Regurgitation through the throat or the nose
- Needing to slowly chew your food
- Difficulty breathing after consumption of food or drinks
- A sore throat
- Hoarse vocal tone
- A gurgling noise that comes from the throat during or following a meal
- Inability to contain food and beverages within the mouth at all times
Individuals with a throat disorder will often begin to lose weight or become dehydrated as a result of their esophageal issues. More serious health complications may also arise, such as pneumonia or a lung infection.
Diagnostic Testing for Dysphagia or Odynophagia
Before treatment can begin, it is critical that the source of the patient’s swallowing troubles be identified. The diagnostic process typically begins by assessing how well the esophagus is able to process food and drinks consumed by the patient.
The motility of the esophagus and the many muscles within it are essential to the act of swallowing, making any sort of damage to these muscles or nerves a likely cause of dysphagia or odynophagia. Common tests and procedures used to study the esophageal tissues include:
- Esophageal manometry
- Wireless pH testing
- 24-hour pH impedance
- Barium esophagram
Swallowing Disorder Treatments with Dr. Ryan Stern
Once Dr. Stern has completed one or more of the diagnostic tests mentioned above, they will give their recommendation on which type of treatment is likely to offer the biggest benefit to the patient and their lifestyle. Some people may only require modifications to their diet or their eating process, while others may need more substantial methods of treatment such as surgical intervention.
Lifestyle Changes and Eating Strategies
Patients may see a remarkable difference in the severity of their symptoms by simply developing a few new habits and strategic plans during their day-to-day life. For example, you can assist the swallowing process by sitting up while you eat, or by eating softer foods that are generally easier to swallow. Dr. Stern can also suggest a few exercises to help you gradually train the muscles of your esophagus to chew and swallow more easily.
Medications can also help to reduce pain associated with the throat during swallowing, or to alleviate muscle contractions that may lead to regurgitation through the esophagus. These noninvasive methods are particularly helpful for those with odynophagia.
Unfortunately, swallowing disorders have the potential to worsen to the point where an individual may need to stick to a liquid-only diet, or utilize a feeding tube to avoid swallowing their food entirely. While these options are often quite effective, they pose a large inconvenience to the person’s lifestyle, which most often relates to their social interactions.
If these solutions are not appealing to you, or you are interested in exploring other options, there are several different procedures offered by our specialists that can help to permanently treat your swallowing disorder. These surgical treatment methods include:
- Esophageal dilation
- Laparoscopic Heller myotomy
- Stent placement
For questions regarding these procedures, or other concerns regarding the function of your esophagus, please contact Dr. Ryan Stern today to schedule an appointment. You may request a consultation by calling (253) 661-2520, or by submitting a request through our online form.