Difficulty Swallowing: When You Should See a Gastroenterologist
Swallowing food is reflexive, so it's not exactly something you think about until it becomes a problem. Maybe you've noticed that you're having more trouble getting food down these days. Perhaps it feels like food is even getting stuck in your throat. You may notice spasms in your throat, pain, tightness, or even trouble breathing. These can all be unnerving symptoms, especially if you don't know what's going on. These are all symptoms of dysphagia, a medical term for difficulty swallowing.
Causes of Dysphagia
There are many reasons why someone may develop dysphagia. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux disease, is usually the most common cause of dysphagia in both children and adults. However, other common causes include,
- Dry mouth (often caused by medications or other health problems)
- Food allergies
- Narrowing of the esophagus
- Achalasia, or muscle weakness in the esophagus
- Muscle spasms in the throat and esophagus
- Scar tissue (often a complication of GERD)
- Tumors in the esophagus (rare)
It's important that if you are having difficulty swallowing that you turn to a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. We will go through your medical history and ask questions about your symptoms. From there, our team will most likely recommend a series of tests to determine where food may be getting stuck if there are signs of scarring or other changes in the esophagus due to acid reflux. Sometimes an upper endoscopy is used to better examine the lining of the esophagus to check for tumors or visible changes that could be responsible.
How we treat your dysphagia will depend on the cause. If the throat is the cause of your swallowing problems, there are certain exercises that you can perform to improve swallowing. Dietary changes may also be necessary. For those whose dysphagia is due to esophageal issues, there are certain medications that can help. Your doctor may also recommend a procedure that can widen a narrowing or constricted esophagus. If there is a tumor or obstruction, then surgery may be required.
If you are looking for a gastroenterologist in Suffolk County, NY, who can treat your swallowing disorder, heartburn, or other gastrointestinal problems, then call Brookhaven Gastroenterology Associates at (631) 289-0300 to schedule an evaluation.