Swallowing difficulties, known as dysphagia, is a topic that is not often talked about. According to the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders, it is something that affects approximately 15 million adults just in the United States alone.
Whether it is a chronic issue or acute, a swallowing disorder can cause a lot of stress, fear, discomfort and can even lead to a person not getting proper nutrition if they cannot eat.
If you have recently been diagnosed with dysphagia and you’re wondering what sort of treatments exist, here’s a look at five that can ease swallowing difficulties.
Dietary Changes Will Be Necessary
For those with a mild swallowing disorder, the first step is often to make some dietary changes. Some foods cause more issues than others, for example, foods that are sticky or too thin. Both can cause difficulty swallowing so it’s best to avoid them.
It’s also a good idea to break up your meals into small portions throughout the day, rather than three large meals. It is recommended you take your time eating, taking very small bites at a time, and focusing on swallowing.
Use a Thickening Product
For those with mild to moderate forms of dysphagia, another option can be to use an instant thickener product that can be added to beverages.
The goal is to create the perfect consistency that allows the person to have control over their swallowing and it even works to ensure they get a “good swallow”.
You can look into products like SimplyThick. A liquid diet is preferable over a feeding tube, which is used in severe cases.
Swallowing Exercises Can Prove Useful
Your doctor may also decide to refer you to a swallowing or speech therapist as part of your treatment plan. There are specific exercises you can do that work on the swallowing reflex. These are exercises that will be taught to you by the therapist that you can then do at home.
They can also teach people how to swallow in terms of the movements involved, the position of the head and neck, and so forth. Learning proper swallowing techniques tends to be especially helpful for those with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
In Certain Situations, Medication Can Be Prescribed
Unfortunately, medication isn’t the right path for everyone, but if your swallowing disorder is related to GERD then you may be given an acid reflux prescription to take.
Surgery Can Address Specific Issues
Then there is surgery, which is meant for those who have a blockage or narrowing in their throat, or those with vocal cord paralysis, esophageal cancer, GERD, or other specific issues.
There are a variety of surgical procedures that the doctor can use – it all depends on the issue they are trying to address.
Keep in mind that surgery alone may not be enough, as you may still need to use the above-mentioned treatments in conjunction.
The important thing to keep in mind is that there are treatments out there that address swallowing difficulties. It will come down to how mild, moderate or severe your case is and what the cause of the difficulties are.
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