Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing
Eliminate the discomfort, pain and danger of swallowing problems with Dr Zeki’s expert help
Do you ever feel like there is something stuck in your throat? Is it sometimes hard to get food, pills, or even liquids from your mouth down to your stomach? If this happens once in a while, you likely have nothing to worry about. However, if difficulty swallowing is a frequent occurrence, you might have a condition called dysphagia.
What is dysphagia?
Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, is a condition that occurs primarily in older people and children, but it can certainly affect people of all ages. It’s caused by many different factors, such as neuromuscular problems or obstructions within the oesophagus. Treatment for dysphagia is varied because of the large number of ways it can present itself. This is why it’s crucial to consult an experienced specialist, like Dr Zeki, to resolve the difficulty of swallowing.
Symptoms of dysphagia
All symptoms of dysphagia revolve around the process of swallowing. Patients suffering from this condition experience difficulty getting food down from the mouth to the stomach, feeling pain or tightness as it descends. In extreme cases, they can grow unable to swallow altogether. Visible signs include coughing or gagging, and — more long-term — unintended weight loss. Because dysphagia can be associated with acid reflux and GORD, frequent heartburn is a common symptom, also.
Dr Zeki’s work with dysphagia
Mild or infrequent difficulty with swallowing may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it can grow to be very uncomfortable and even dangerous if left untreated. This is why you should always consult with a gastroenterologist like Dr Zeki if you feel yourself regularly experiencing dysphagia symptoms.
Dr Sebastian Zeki is a consultant gastroenterologist within the NHS at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, one of the country’s leading tertiary referral centres. He specialises in upper gastrointestinal physiology and endoscopy — the very two areas of expertise required to successfully diagnose and treat the causes of dysphagia and other digestive issues.
Privately, Dr Zeki is easily accessible with consultations available within the prestigious HCA at the Shard Clinic, as well as diagnostic and treatment facilities like the Endoscopy Suite at London Bridge Hospital.
The patient journey
Dysphagia could be caused by a variety of factors, such as tissue damage resulting from GORD or even a small tumour in the oesophagus. So, finding the culprit typically requires one of the following investigative procedures:
- An endoscopy involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera into the throat in order to take a peek inside of the oesophagus. This is often performed with sedation or anaesthetic for comfort.
- A high resolution manometry measures the pressure inside the oesophagus by inserting a thin, flexible tube in through the nostril while the patient takes a few gulps of water.
- A barium swallow allows Dr Zeki to X-ray the area to effectively diagnose multiple upper gastrointestinal issues.
Depending on the cause of dysphagia in each patient, treatment measures could range from simple eating habit adjustment, to medication, to surgical involvement. If the difficulty swallowing is found to be a byproduct of GORD, Dr Zeki will work with you to eliminate both issues. If there are structural obstacles, such as tumours or narrowings in the oesophagus, surgery or dilation may be required.
Regardless of the cause, there is no reason for you to suffer from dysphagia
Can stress really cause difficulty swallowing?
Stress can make the symptoms of dysphagia worse, but all patients with dysphagia should undergo endoscopic and functional examinations before relating dysphagia to stress. Anxiety can cause people with dysphagia to have worse symptoms of the condition, which is why it is very important to not only be careful with what you eat, but how and when you eat. Speaking to a specialist about this issue could make a huge difference in the way the condition presents itself for you.
Is there anything I can do on my own to help fix my dysphagia?
This very much depends on the cause of the dysphagia. In cases where the dysphagia is due to reflux or food allergies, working with a dietician in addition to taking specific medications can help. Sometimes, the only way to resolve the dysphagia is by dilating the obstructing area with a balloon during endoscopy. There are many options available, and Dr Zeki will be able to decide with you on the best possible option.
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