Swallowing is a daily activity that we typically do automatically, so it can be unnerving when it doesn’t happen as it should. Though we might not give it much thought, swallowing involves around 50 pairs of muscles and nerves. If there are issues with this process, our team at Sacramento Ear, Nose & Throat can help it get back on track, so it stops causing discomfort.
How Do We Swallow?
When we swallow, the muscles that control the mouth, back of the throat and the esophagus all move. The process consists of four stages.
- Stage 1: Oral preparation stage. Food is chewed to prepare for swallowing.
- Stage 2: Oral stage. The tongue pushes food or liquid to the back of the mouth.
- Stage 3: Pharyngeal stage. Food or liquid passes through the pharynx into the esophagus.
- Stage 4: Esophageal stage. Food or liquid passes through the esophagus and enters the stomach.
What Are Symptoms of a Swallowing Disorder?
- Painful swallowing or an inability to swallow
- Feeling that food is getting stuck in your throat or chest
- Gagging when swallowing
What Are the Types of Swallowing Disorders?
Swallowing disorders fall into two categories.
Dysphagia is the feeling of food being regurgitated and includes any discoordination from the throat that results in coughing or choking while swallowing.
Odynophagia refers to pain in the chest or throat while swallowing.
How Are Swallowing Disorders Diagnosed?
If you think you’re experiencing a swallowing disorder, our ENT is here to help. During your appointment, they’ll perform a physical exam and discuss your symptoms with you. You may want to make a list of symptoms and which foods trigger them to share with your doctor.
Additional diagnostic procedures typically include inspection of the stomach and esophagus, throat muscle strength testing or acid reflux testing.
How Are Swallowing Disorders Treated?
Medication, swallowing retraining and dilation are all common options for treatment.
Medications include antacids, muscle relaxants and drugs to limit the amount of stomach acid produced. Dilation involves stretching an esophagus that is too narrow, and swallowing therapy includes techniques that can help stimulate the muscles and nerves for swallowing.
The most severe cases of swallowing disorders may require major modifications.
No matter what your symptoms are or their severity, our team at Sacramento Ear, Nose & Throat is here to provide treatment for your swallowing disorder. We’ll discuss how your symptoms are impacting your life, treatment options and work closely with you to provide ongoing relief and care.