Swallowing is the process of transporting food from the mouth towards the stomach. It involves several functions divided into three phases: preparatory, transfer, and transport; these follow each other in stages. Swallowing occurs without consciously thinking about it, so it can be a pain to deal with if swallowing disorders arise.
From time to time, we experience problems when swallowing. We sometimes drink or eat food the wrong way, causing us to cough hard. On other occasions, we swallow a sturdy piece of meat, causing us to gag, swallow hard, or drink water to flush it down. If you have a swallowing disorder, these troubles will be a frequent event.
Before we get into the different swallowing disorders and their symptoms, let’s first understand how the swallowing process works.
Swallowing Involves Three Stages
Anatomically, swallowing involves three stages, oral (mouth), pharyngeal (throat), and esophageal (esophagus).
During this stage, you are either chewing, sucking, or drinking. Then you are in the process of delivering the food into the throat.
You are currently in the process of swallowing and squeezing the food into the throat. Your body will automatically close the airway to keep any food or liquids out of the lungs. Any food that enters the airway can cause you to choke and then cough or hiccup to remove the debris.
Once food or drink passes through the throat, it now enters the esophagus. The esophagus is a tube that connects your throat all the way down into the stomach. The esophagus will do some muscle contractions to push the food down to the stomach.
The food or drinks you are can get stuck in the esophagus; a drink should help flush it down. Likewise, if you are experiencing acid indigestion or heartburn, you can vomit or throw up the food you just ate.
Types of Swallowing Disorders
Problems with swallowing are often categorized under these two disorders:
Dysphagia refers to difficulty swallowing, requiring more effort to deliver food from the mouth to the stomach. The disorder is prevalent in older adults and babies.
While it is a disorder, sometimes, Dysphagia is a symptom or sign of an underlying health condition. However, in most cases, the disorder is a problem by itself. It’s expected that at least once or twice, you’ll experience Dysphagia, and it’s not an indication of an underlying health condition.
But if you experience Dysphagia regularly, perhaps you need a medical checkup. There are many causes of Dysphagia, and treating it depends on identifying the underlying cause and dealing with it.
Three Types of Dysphagia
- Oral Dysphagia: The disorder is in the mouth, and it typically happens because of tongue weakness, difficulty chewing food, problems of properly transporting food from the mouth to the throat.
- Pharyngeal Dysphagia: The disorder is in your throat. What causes this disorder is neurological problems, which can be caused by a stroke or Parkinson’s disease.
- Esophageal Dysphagia: The disorder is in the esophagus; the causes of this disorder can be due to irritation or blockage. In rare cases, you need surgery to fix the problem.
Symptoms Of Dysphagia
More often than not, Dysphagia disorders are hard to notice or go unreported. People think that their symptoms of Dysphagia are minor annoyances, but if left untreated, Dysphagia can lead to pneumonia, dehydration, and malnutrition.
You will be vulnerable to pneumonia since food or drink particles can enter the lungs. Likewise, since the food isn’t ingested correctly, the body can’t receive as many nutrients causing malnutrition. Finally, since an individual cannot drink properly, their fluid intake may not be sufficient, leading to dehydration.
Check the list below and see if you have any of these symptoms that happen frequently:
- Recurrent Heartburn
- Unexplained Weight Loss
- Food or stomach acid backing up towards the throat
- Inability to control saliva, leading to drooling
- Recurrent Pneumonia
- Difficulty in controlling and swallowing food
Odynaphagia is a medical term for painful swallowing. As soon as you put food in your mouth, throat, or esophagus, you experience pain, that is, Odynophagia.
What Differentiates Odynaphagia and Dysphagia?
Many people sometimes interchange these two terms. So to put it simply, Odynaphagia is experiencing pain when swallowing. Meanwhile, Dysphagia is experiencing difficulty swallowing.
When you have Odynaphagia, you won’t have problems swallowing food, and you’ll just experience pain when doing so. On the other hand, Dysphagia is when you have difficulty swallowing food, you might feel discomfort, but more often than not, there’s no pain.
But what is similar between the two is just like Dysphagia, Odynaphagia can be linked to various causes. Treatment will also rely on treating the underlying health condition. On the other hand, Dysphagia can become so unbearable that you cannot swallow at all.
Symptoms Of Odynaphagia
Odynophagia is often related to other health conditions. However, in most cases, it’s temporary and will go away on its own.
Check the list below and see if you have any of these symptoms:
- Pain when swallowing can be either dull, sharp, or a burning sensation
- Pain gets worse the more you eat
- Weight loss and dehydration from reduced water and drink intakes.
When an infection causes Odynophagia, you’ll experience pains, aches, fatigue, or fever; you’ll feel generally unwell.
Diagnosing Odynaphagia And Dysphagia
To check if you have any of these disorders, your doctor will do some physical examinations and review your medical history. It would help to write down and explain to the doctor what symptoms you are currently experiencing. Tell them when it first occurred, how recurring it is, and what foods agitate these symptoms.
To double-check, your doctor will do any of these physical examinations:
- Barium esophagram
- 24-hour pH impedance
- Esophageal manometry
Once the causes of the swallowing disorders are identified, the doctor can then treat them.
If you contain any of these symptoms, you should reach out to medical experts as soon as you can. If you are looking for treatment, consider contacting Cache Valley Ear, Nose & Throat. They are an expert when it comes to handling swallowing disorders.