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Dysphagia is the medical term used to refer to difficulty swallowing. The condition makes it difficult for people to pass solid or liquid food from the mouth to the stomach. Dysphagia can compromise nutritional intake and affected individuals are at risk of malnourishment and dehydration. Some may even require hospitalization for life threatening outcomes such as aspiration pneumonia, a dangerous chest infection.
Dysphagia can be divided into two main forms which include:
Dysphagia can also be referred to in terms of which stage of the swallowing process is disrupted, as follows:
Although dysphagia is a well-researched topic, the condition is still often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. In order for a diagnosis of dysphagia to be made, the patient’s symptoms must be related to swallowing a solid or liquid bolus. If the problem is not related to this, globus hystericus may be indicated, which is different to dysphagia. Although globus hystricus may be a sign of a functional abnormality, it may also be caused by an abnormality in the musculature of the pharynx or esophagus.
While some people with dysphagia find they cannot swallow food or liquid, others find they loose their ability to swallow altogether.
Some examples of symptoms observed in the two forms of dysphagia are described below:
In adults, signs of dysphagia to look out for include:
In children, some signs include: