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Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing) Specialist

Palmadessa and Brodsky Gastroenterology Associates -  - Gastroenterology

Palmadessa and Brodsky Gastroenterology Associates

Gastroenterology & Hepatology located in Douglaston, NY

One in 25 Americans struggle with dysphagia, living with the uncomfortable and often painful sensation of having food stuck in their throat or neck. The board-certified gastroenterologists and skilled medical team at Palmadessa and Brodsky Gastroenterology Associates in Douglaston, New York, help patients overcome swallowing problems, restoring their ability to eat and preventing complications such as nutritional deficiencies and aspiration pneumonia. If you have a hard time swallowing or have questions about your symptoms, call Palmadessa and Brodsky Gastroenterology Associates or schedule an appointment online today.

Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing) Q & A

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, occurs when you can’t get food, liquids, or other items like pills to go through your mouth and down your throat and esophagus. Difficulty swallowing can occur at any age, but you’re more likely to develop the problem when you’re older.

What causes dysphagia?

There are two types of dysphagia: esophageal dysphagia and oropharyngeal dysphagia. Each one has specific causes.

Esophageal dysphagia

Esophageal dysphagia, which refers to food getting stuck in your esophagus, is caused by conditions such as:

  • Acid reflux

  • Muscles spasms
  • Esophageal narrowing 
  • Blockages from foreign bodies
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis
  • Scleroderma
  • Tumors
  • Dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter

Oropharyngeal dysphagia

Oropharyngeal dysphagia occurs when moving food through your mouth or when you first start to swallow. Possible causes include:

  • Neurological disorders
  • Nerve damage
  • Zenker’s diverticulum
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Damage from cancer treatment

Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and muscular dystrophy are a few examples of neurological disorders that lead to dysphagia.

What symptoms develop due to dysphagia?

The primary symptom of dysphagia is the feeling that something is stuck in your throat. You may also develop symptoms such as:

  • Drooling
  • Choking on food or liquids
  • Hoarseness or voice changes
  • Coughing up blood
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Regurgitating food
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Unexpected weight loss

When you have esophageal dysphagia, you may be able to swallow normally, but as food gets stuck in your esophagus, you’ll feel a lump or pain in your neck or chest.

If you have oropharyngeal dysphagia, you’re at risk of aspirating foods or fluids into your windpipe, which can lead to pneumonia.

How is dysphagia diagnosed and treated?

Your doctor at Palmadessa and Brodsky Gastroenterology Associates may perform one or more diagnostic tests to determine why you have dysphagia. You may need a swallowing study, an esophageal muscle test, an X-ray, or other diagnostic imaging. In many cases, you’ll need an upper endoscopy so your doctor can visually examine your esophagus and take needed biopsies.

Since there are many possible underlying causes, your treatment is individualized to focus on your unique problem. You may need to learn swallowing techniques or exercises to coordinate muscles. 

In some cases, your doctor at Palmadessa and Brodsky Gastroenterology Associates performs an endoscopic procedure to treat esophageal problems. There are also a variety of medications to treat underlying problems such as acid reflux or esophageal inflammation.

Don’t wait to get help for dysphagia. At the first sign of swallowing difficulty, call Palmadessa and Brodsky Gastroenterology Associates or schedule an appointment online.