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Swallowing Disorders

ENTACC Services, Patient Exam

When you swallow, you are moving chewed food or liquids through the esophagus to the stomach. Dysphagia, the term for difficulty swallowing, is a medical condition characterized by the sensation of food or liquid getting stuck in the throat or chest. Numerous factors can cause swallowing difficulty, most of them benign.

The Swallowing Process

Few of us give much thought to the act of swallowing, but it’s a complex process that involves around
50 pairs of muscles and nerves.

Four stages make up the swallowing process:

  • Stage 1: Oral preparation stage. Food is chewed.
  • Stage 2: Oral stage. The tongue pushes back the food or liquid.
  • Stage 3: Pharyngeal stage. Food or liquid passes into the esophagus.
  • Stage 4: Esophageal stage. Food or liquid enters the stomach.

Symptoms & Causes of Swallowing Disorders

Swallowing disorders involve chronic issues with chewing and swallowing. The symptoms are pain while swallowing, chest pain, and the sensation that meals or liquid are getting caught in the throat or chest. Additionally, you could experience drooling, heartburn, nausea, wheezing, coughing, regurgitation, sore throat, and a bitter flavor in the mouth. 

Swallowing disorders consist of diffuse spasms, an improperly comfortable sphincter, vulnerable esophageal muscle tissue, a narrow esophagus or esophageal ring, foreign bodies, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a hardening of the tissues, and tumors. 

In addition, the muscle tissue and nerves responsible for swallowing can weaken due to neurological problems, pharyngeal diverticula, or cancer. Children may have trouble swallowing if they have nervous system problems or a cleft palate.

Treatment for Swallowing Disorders

Treatment for swallowing disorders depends on the underlying cause and where the problem originates. Medication, surgery, and swallowing therapy are the most common types of treatments administered. Dysphagia medications include antacids, muscle relaxants, and other drugs to limit the amount of stomach acid produced. 

A surgical procedure to stretch or dilate the esophagus when too narrow often helps resolve the issue. Swallowing therapy involving chewing and swallowing techniques can help stimulate the responsible muscles and nerves. The most severe cases of dysphagia may require a liquid diet or feeding tube.

If you’ve been finding it difficult to swallow, you can trust ENTACC to provide you quality, comprehensive care.

Erin O. from Downingtown, PA

“I had stopped taking my allergy medicine and ended up with the worse sinus infection of my life. The staff at Ear, Nose & Throat Associates of Chester County genuinely will provide you with the best care. I was overwhelmed by the kindness, concern, and sense of urgency everyone gave. My phone calls were returned promptly and time was made to see me in the office when it was an emergency.”

Connie J. from West Chester, PA

“I can say after years of coming to Ear, Nose & Throat Associates of Chester County, my relationship and trust with Dr. Marriotti has grown tremendously. He is personable, friendly and I appreciate his input with my hearing condition. The staff at Ear, Nose & Throat Associates of Chester County is always cheery and pleasant. I enjoy my visits and always leave feeling like I am in good hands.”

Dauna P. from University Lincoln, PA

“I am so grateful for the care Dr. Picariello has given for my complex and serious brain diagnosis. He has made such an impression on the way the process was handled. I shall never forget him and how humble he was when dealing with my condition. He is truly one of the best around and I am fortunate for his high ethical standards and professionalism.”

Kathy S. from Schwenksvile, PA

“The knowledge, encouragement, concern, and individual attention the doctors of Ear, Nose & Throat Associates of Chester County had demonstrated was far beyond my expectations. The office atmosphere is professional yet friendly. The doctors know their profession well and are able to explain in basic understandable terms. They made sure we were comfortable and took their time going over everything extensively.”

James B., from Coatesville, PA

“The allergy shot process has been a great experience and has prevented a reoccurrence of my nasal polyps, and decreased the need for my asthma inhaler. The allergy staff is excellent.”