Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Treatment for dysphagia depends on the type or cause of your swallowing disorder.

Oropharyngeal dysphagia

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 ways to place food in your mouth or to position your body and head to help you swallow.

Esophageal dysphagia

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. If you have eosinophilic esophagitis, you may need corticosteroids.

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.

Severe dysphagia

If difficulty swallowing prevents you from eating and drinking adequately, your doctor may recommend:

  • 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.
Oct. 15, 2014

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