Is there any treatment for swallowing disorders (dysphagia)?

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Changing a person's diet by adding thickeners helps many people, as does learning different ways to eat and chew that reduce the risk of aspiration. Occasionally, drug therapy that helps the neurological disorder can also help dysphagia. In a few persons, botulinum toxin injections can help when food or liquid cannot enter the esophagus to get to the stomach. More severely disabled individuals may require surgery or the insertion of feeding tubes.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Many people with dysarthria also have trouble swallowing, a problem called dysphagia. If this is the case, the speech-language pathologist will provide exercises to strengthen the mouth and throat muscles, as well as tips on how to prevent choking, such as taking small amounts of food at a time, eating slowly, and sitting up while eating. It may be necessary to eat pureed foods at first and gradually introduce more solid foods as muscle strength returns.

Various therapies can reduce or eliminate the swallowing problem (dysphagia) and restore a person’s ability to eat and enjoy normal foods. Treatment options include:

  • Strengthening weak muscles or improving their coordination can be effective, especially for children and the elderly.
  • Lifestyle changes. A change in diet can make swallowing easier or reduce the acid reflux that may be causing dysphagia.
  • If certain disorders have caused narrowing of the esophagus, an endoscope with a balloon attached may be used to gently expand the organ.
  • In some cases, a long, thin scope can be used to remove an object that is stuck in the esophagus.
  • Surgical procedures may be performed to remove a tumor or pouch or treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or esophageal strictures.
  • If dysphagia is caused by GERD, heartburn or inflammation, prescription medicines may help prevent stomach acid from entering the esophagus.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.