Treatment for swallowing difficulties is often tailored to the particular type or cause of your swallowing disorder.
For oropharyngeal dysphagia, your doctor may refer you to a speech or swallowing therapist, and therapy may include:
- Exercises. Certain exercises may help coordinate your swallowing muscles or restimulate the nerves that trigger the swallowing reflex.
- Learning swallowing techniques. You may also learn simple ways to place food in your mouth or to position your body and head to help you swallow successfully.
Treatment approaches for esophageal dysphagia may include:
- Esophageal dilation. For a tight esophageal sphincter (achalasia) or an esophageal stricture, your doctor may use an endoscope with a special balloon attached to gently stretch and expand the width of your esophagus or pass a flexible tube or tubes to stretch the esophagus (dilatation).
- Surgery. For an esophageal tumor, achalasia or pharyngeal diverticula, you may need surgery to clear your esophageal path.
- Medications. Difficulty swallowing associated with GERD can be treated with prescription oral medications to reduce stomach acid. You may need to take these medications for an extended period of time.
If you have esophageal spasm but your esophagus appears normal and without GERD, you may be treated with medications to relax your esophagus and reduce discomfort.
If difficulty swallowing prevents you from eating and drinking adequately, your doctor may recommend:
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- Special liquid diets. This may help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid dehydration.
- Feeding tube. In severe cases of dysphagia, you may need a feeding tube to bypass the part of your swallowing mechanism that isn't working normally.
- Dysphagia. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/dysph.asp. Accessed Sept. 2, 2011.
- Swallowing trouble. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/swallowingTrouble.cfm. Accessed Sept. 2, 2011.
- Dysphagia. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec02/ch012/ch012b.html. Accessed Sept. 2, 2011.
- Feeding and swallowing disorders in children. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. http://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/FeedSwallowChildren.htm. Accessed Sept. 2, 2011.
- McQuaid KR. Gastrointestinal disorders. In: McPhee SJ, et al., eds. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2011. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Medical Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=6395. Accessed Sept. 8, 2011.
- Hirano I, et al. Dysphagia. In: Longo DL, et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Medical Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=9112744. Accessed Sept. 8, 2011.
- Garcia JM. Managing dysphagia through diet modifications. American Journal of Nursing. 2010;110:26.
- Mendelson MH. Esophageal emergencies, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and swallowed foreign bodies. In: Tintinall JE, et al., eds. Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Medical Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=6360571. Accessed Sept. 8, 2011.
- Picco MF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. Sept. 13, 2011.
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