You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. Depending on the suspected cause, your doctor may refer you to a doctor who specializes in treating ear, nose and throat disorders (otorhinolaryngologist), a doctor who specializes in treating digestive disorders (gastroenterologist) or a doctor who specializes in diseases of the nervous system (neurologist).
Here's some information to help you get prepared for your appointment.
What you can do
- Be aware of pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- List your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes.
- List all medications, vitamins and supplements you take.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
For dysphagia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the likeliest cause of my symptoms?
- What are other possible causes?
- What tests do I need?
- Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Do I need to restrict my diet?
- Are there brochures or other printed material I can have? What websites do you recommend?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- When did your symptoms begin?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms? For example, are certain foods harder to swallow than others?
- Do you have difficulty swallowing solids, liquids or both?
- Do you cough or gag when you try to swallow?
- Did you first have trouble swallowing solids and then develop difficulty swallowing liquids?
What you can do in the meantime
Until your appointment, it may help to chew your food more slowly and thoroughly than usual. If you have heartburn or GERD, try eating smaller meals, and don't eat right before bedtime. Over-the-counter antacids also may help temporarily.
Oct. 15, 2014
- Fass R. Overview of dysphagia in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 6, 2014.
- Dysphagia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/pages/dysph.aspx. Accessed Aug. 6, 2014.
- Swallowing trouble. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/swallowingTrouble.cfm. Accessed Aug. 6, 2014.
- Dysphagia: Esophageal and swallowing disorders. The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal_disorders/esophageal_and_swallowing_disorders/dysphagia.html. Accessed Aug. 6, 2014.
- Dysphagia. American College of Gastroenterology. http://patients.gi.org/topics/dysphagia/. Accessed Aug. 6, 2014.
- Lembo AJ. Oropharyngeal dysphagia: Clinical features, diagnosis, and management. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 6, 2014.