5 Possible Causes of Dysphagia : Doctors diagnose gastrointestinal and digestive diseases through blood tests, barium swallows, and endoscopy tests. The findings determine if the patient has more than one condition causing dysphagia or difficulty when swallowing. Patients who develop dysphagia have underlying illnesses that require treatment, too. Patients who want to learn more about dysphagia are encouraged to read about the five possible causes of dysphagia.
GERD or Acid Reflux
GERD or acid reflux is a medical condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. Esophagus erosion occurs without proper treatment. Over time, the esophageal tissues become damaged, and the patient experiences narrowing of the esophagus and esophagus spasms. Doctors treat dysphagia caused by acid reflux with medication, such as Nexium or Prilosec. Food thickeners are also great products that lower the frequency of acid reflux symptoms and strengthen the throat muscles. Acid reflux patients who want to learn more about using food thickeners can visit johnlholahan.com for more information.
Foreign Bodies in the Esophagus
Foreign bodies in the esophagus cause dysphagia and might affect the patient’s ability to breathe. Patients with diverticulosis develop diverticula in their esophagus and their colon. Diverticula in the esophagus trap food in the esophagus and cause blockages. Diverticulosis leads to infections if the diverticula close over blockages. When treating the blockage, doctors use endoscopic devices to remove trapped food. If the diverticula close, surgical removal is required.
Achalasia develops when the sphincter remains tightened and prevents food from entering the stomach properly. The tightness causes the patient to regurgitate the food, or the food remains in the esophagus causing an obstruction. Patients with achalasia experience dysphagia because of the weakening of the esophagus muscles. Doctors treat achalasia by esophagus dilation or surgical repairs for the esophageal sphincter. Some doctors recommend Botox as a treatment for achalasia as it paralyzes the esophageal sphincter and allows food to flow into the stomach.
Esophageal tumors are the first sign of esophageal cancer. It is caused by GERD, smoking, alcoholism, obesity, and Barrett’s esophagus. The size of the tumors determines how severe the dysphagia is. Doctors perform biopsies and determine if the tumors are malignant. Benign tumors are removed without serious risks to the patient. Patients who have esophageal cancer undergo surgical removal, radiation, and chemotherapy. Once a surgeon removes the tumors, the patient regains the ability to swallow. Surgical removal doesn’t guarantee that tumors won’t come back. Patients visit an oncologist who manages the patient’s cancer with appropriate treatments.
Diffuse spasms are high-pressure contractions of the esophagus. The spasms occur after the patient swallows their food, and the contractions are painful and continue until the food leaves the esophagus and flows into the stomach. Patients with diffuse spasms experience chest pain and tightness as food passes into the stomach. The spasms increase the risk for achalasia and dysphagia. Doctors treat diffuse spasms with Botox, peppermint oil, and medications to relax the esophageal muscles.
Patients with dysphagia experience additional symptoms according to the cause of dysphagia. Gastrointestinal diseases are often the culprit of dysphagia. Common causes include GERD, foreign bodies in the esophagus, achalasia, and esophageal tumors. The onset of dysphagia might indicate esophageal cancer and requires proper diagnosis and invasive treatments. Reviewing the common causes of dysphagia helps patients determine if they face any additional health risks.
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