What Causes Dysphagia And What Information Do We Have About It?

 By: Michiel Van Kets
Swallowing is a simple act that people do without ever contemplating how it happens, and is normally accepted and taken for granted. As a matter of fact, food that one eats is transferred from the mouth to the stomach by a process that constitutes more than 50 sets of muscles and thousands of nerves. Three stages are involved in swallowing: chewing, to make sure that pieces of food are of a size that can be easily swallowed; transporting the food into the oesophagus (the food tube) rather than the trachea (the windpipe); and transporting the food from the oesophagus into the stomach.

The clinical condition to where swallowing food or liquid is painful is referred to as dysphagia. Common in stroke patients and the elderly, it is a condition that is typically the result of another health issue. If a patient experiences complications due to dysphagia, this event can cause the patient's recovery and general improvement to take more time.

Oropharyngeal or higher dysphagia are the two distinct forms of dysphagia in which the mouth or throat are the areas of issue. The most complicated form of dysphagia, called oropharyngeal dysphagia, which is neurological origin caused by the break-down of nerves and muscles that control the process of swallowing, is not only difficult in terms of treatment but may also result in other medical issues. Oesophageal dysphagia (or lower dysphagia) develops due to the fact that the oesophagus has been damaged in some way. This kind of dysphagia is normally due to some kind of blockage or other exacerbation, is not as difficult to treat, and usually goes away with the help of physical therapy or, in some cases, surgery.

Patients who have dysphagia may have various symptoms, such as painful swallowing, food regurgitation, coughing or choking when eating, or a feeling that food is caught in the throat. Patients with the worst symptoms are unable to swallow at all. The prescribed treatment will necessarily be decided upon based on the major cause of the condition, but treatments vary, from physical therapy retraining to surgery. Patients may need to relearn how to swallow because in some cases, the swallowing reflexes have been damaged. At other times, the patient may get a feeding tube to avoid dehydration or malnourishment.

In patients who have had strokes, dysphagia is usually neurological in nature since damage has occurred to the area of the brain or nervous system that regulates swallowing and associated reflexes. These patients experience problems with swallowing because their bodies have actually 'forgotten' how to swallow. Stroke dysphagia occurs in approximately one out of every two patients, even though some researchers think that an amount up to 73% of stroke patients will experience difficulties in swallowing. Aside from the noticeable evolution of hydration and nutrition that stems from this kind of dysphagia, stroke patients who develop this illness will also learn that they are at a greater risk for developing similar complications. In oropharyngeal dysphagia, the larynx may not close correctly during the process of swallowing. When this happens, food can get into the respiratory system and the lungs. This is what occurs when we say that food 'has gone down the wrong pipe'. The result can become an infection in the lungs, and it is common for dysphagic stroke patients to come down with aspiration pneumonia (pneumonia caused as a result of food that is aspirated or breathed in), a very dangerous disease that can be lethal. Accordingly, it is crucial that patients who have a stroke and related dysphagia are immediately diagnosed so that the necessary procedure can be applied in order to prohibit food from invading the lungs. Cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis constitute other factors that lead to neurological dysphagia.

Not being of neurological origin, oesophageal dysphagia may result from blockades in the oral cavity and the oesophagus. Swallowing problems may result from a variety of conditions ranging from cleft lip or palate to mouth cancer. There are additional illnesses like gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (or GORD), in which the acid from the stomach travels into the oesophagus, thus causing the tissue to become scarred, which can turn into dysphagia. Radiotherapy, used to control such diseases as tuberculosis and herpes, may lead to scar tissue formation down the lining of the oesophagus, which causes swallowing problems.

Achalasia is one kind of muscular dysphagia that is responsible for affecting about 1 in every 100,000 individuals. Even though this is a medical illness that lasts throughout a person's life, there are several kinds of treatments that may be found. This happens when the bottom two-thirds of the oesophagus stiffen to the point where food will not pass through into the stomach. It is difficult to diagnose the problems at an early stage since they take time to set in and manifest themselves only at an advanced stage. Hiccups, heart burn, chest pain, and most notably difficulties swallowing are symptoms. There are several different types of treatments, including medications that help the stomach muscles to relax, which allows food to enter the stomach without any obstructions.

Swallowing is a simple act that people do without ever contemplating how it happens, and is normally accepted and taken for granted. As a matter of fact, food that one eats is transferred from the mouth to the stomach by a process that constitutes more than 50 sets of muscles and thousands of nerves. Three stages are involved in swallowing: chewing, to make sure that pieces of food are of a size that can be easily swallowed; transporting the food into the oesophagus (the food tube) rather than the trachea (the windpipe); and transporting the food from the oesophagus into the stomach.

The clinical condition to where swallowing food or liquid is painful is referred to as dysphagia. Common in stroke patients and the elderly, it is a condition that is typically the result of another health issue. If a patient experiences complications due to dysphagia, this event can cause the patient's recovery and general improvement to take more time.

Oropharyngeal or higher dysphagia are the two distinct forms of dysphagia in which the mouth or throat are the areas of issue. The most complicated form of dysphagia, called oropharyngeal dysphagia, which is neurological origin caused by the break-down of nerves and muscles that control the process of swallowing, is not only difficult in terms of treatment but may also result in other medical issues. Oesophageal dysphagia (or lower dysphagia) develops due to the fact that the oesophagus has been damaged in some way. This kind of dysphagia is normally due to some kind of blockage or other exacerbation, is not as difficult to treat, and usually goes away with the help of physical therapy or, in some cases, surgery.

Patients who have dysphagia may have various symptoms, such as painful swallowing, food regurgitation, coughing or choking when eating, or a feeling that food is caught in the throat. Patients with the worst symptoms are unable to swallow at all. The prescribed treatment will necessarily be decided upon based on the major cause of the condition, but treatments vary, from physical therapy retraining to surgery. Patients may need to relearn how to swallow because in some cases, the swallowing reflexes have been damaged. At other times, the patient may get a feeding tube to avoid dehydration or malnourishment.

In patients who have had strokes, dysphagia is usually neurological in nature since damage has occurred to the area of the brain or nervous system that regulates swallowing and associated reflexes. These patients experience problems with swallowing because their bodies have actually 'forgotten' how to swallow. Stroke dysphagia occurs in approximately one out of every two patients, even though some researchers think that an amount up to 73% of stroke patients will experience difficulties in swallowing. Aside from the noticeable evolution of hydration and nutrition that stems from this kind of dysphagia, stroke patients who develop this illness will also learn that they are at a greater risk for developing similar complications. In oropharyngeal dysphagia, the larynx may not close correctly during the process of swallowing. When this happens, food can get into the respiratory system and the lungs. This is what occurs when we say that food 'has gone down the wrong pipe'. The result can become an infection in the lungs, and it is common for dysphagic stroke patients to come down with aspiration pneumonia (pneumonia caused as a result of food that is aspirated or breathed in), a very dangerous disease that can be lethal. Accordingly, it is crucial that patients who have a stroke and related dysphagia are immediately diagnosed so that the necessary procedure can be applied in order to prohibit food from invading the lungs. Cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis constitute other factors that lead to neurological dysphagia.

Not being of neurological origin, oesophageal dysphagia may result from blockades in the oral cavity and the oesophagus. Swallowing problems may result from a variety of conditions ranging from cleft lip or palate to mouth cancer. There are additional illnesses like gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (or GORD), in which the acid from the stomach travels into the oesophagus, thus causing the tissue to become scarred, which can turn into dysphagia. Radiotherapy, used to control such diseases as tuberculosis and herpes, may lead to scar tissue formation down the lining of the oesophagus, which causes swallowing problems.

Achalasia is one kind of muscular dysphagia that is responsible for affecting about 1 in every 100,000 individuals. Even though this is a medical illness that lasts throughout a person's life, there are several kinds of treatments that may be found. This happens when the bottom two-thirds of the oesophagus stiffen to the point where food will not pass through into the stomach. It is difficult to diagnose the problems at an early stage since they take time to set in and manifest themselves only at an advanced stage. Hiccups, heart burn, chest pain, and most notably difficulties swallowing are symptoms. There are several different types of treatments, including medications that help the stomach muscles to relax, which allows food to enter the stomach without any obstructions.
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