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The Main Symptoms of Dysphagia to Watch Out For

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  • The first and foremost indicator people must watch out for is pain during swallowing, also known as odynophagia
  • The symptoms of dysphagia are diverse, and the problem can compound further due to many possible underlying causes

The symptoms of dysphagia are quite easy to identify because they’re mostly confined to the throat region. The first and foremost indicator people must watch out for is pain during swallowing, also known as odynophagia. Several other symptoms may appear depending on the primary cause:1,2

  • A sensation that there’s food stuck in your throat or in your chest
  • Drooling or having problems controlling saliva in your mouth
  • Inability to swallow food
  • Hoarse voice
  • Regurgitation of chewed food
  • Coughing, choking or gagging when swallowing
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Stomach acids flowing back up the esophagus
  • Unexpected weight loss

The Underlying Causes of Dysphagia May Have Other Seemingly Unrelated Symptoms

Dysphagia can be caused by a multitude of diseases, each with its own unique symptoms. It’s important that you become aware of them because some may be very detrimental to your everyday life. Below are key underlying diseases related to dysphagia that everyone should know:

Multiple sclerosis Commonly known as MS, this autoimmune disease attacks the protective coverings of your nerve cells, called myelin, leading to diminished motor function.3 Symptoms vary depending on what part of your body is attacked, but early telltale signs include vision problems, tingling, numbness, fatigue, bladder dysfunction and emotional changes.4

Stroke — A stroke is a condition wherein blood flow to a particular area in the brain is cut off, causing cells to die and affect motor abilities.5 It is a potentially fatal disease and can appear suddenly, so watch out for crucial indicators such as:6

Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg in one side of your body

Trouble seeing with one or both eyes

Walking difficulties

Severe headache for no reason

It’s estimated that 9 out of 10 stroke survivors suffer from some degree of paralysis, which can affect any part of your body, including your throat.7

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) — GERD causes a painful sensation in your chest known as heartburn due to stomach acids flowing back up the esophagus. A dry cough and sore throat may appear as well during an acid reflux episode.8

Scleroderma — Scleroderma causes connective tissues to harden and develop scars, thereby preventing the affected organs from functioning properly. Early symptoms include fingers that become very sensitive to cold. Lines or streaks of thickened skin may form on the limbs as well.9

Cancer — Esophageal cancer can exhibit other symptoms apart from dysphagia, such as coughing up blood and very dark feces. Pain behind the breastbone can be felt as well.10

Myasthenia gravis — Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles responsible for breathing and moving. Prominent warning signs include eye weakness, blurry vision, shortness of breath and lack of strength in the limbs.11

In a study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, researchers noted that dysphagia has a chance to appear as the sole complication to stem from myasthenia gravis.12

Diffuse esophageal spasm — People who develop this condition generally experience chest pain after eating or drinking. The pain can become so severe that it can be mistaken for a heart attack when you consume warm beverages or dishes.13 In some cases, the pain can even wake you from sleep.14

Achalasia — Those who suffer from achalasia have lower esophageal sphincters that do not relax properly, preventing food from entering the stomach. Aside from trouble swallowing, you need to watch out for regurgitation, chest pain and coughing.

Furthermore, achalasia may cause aspiration, a situation wherein food, liquid or saliva is inhaled into the lungs.15

If Dysphagia Occurs, Visit a Doctor Immediately to Determine the Origin

The symptoms of dysphagia are diverse, and the problem can compound further due to many possible underlying causes. If you suddenly develop breathing problems or have trouble swallowing food and water, visit a doctor immediately to get diagnosed and receive the appropriate treatment.


Dysphagia: Introduction

What Is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia Symptoms

Dysphagia Causes

Dysphagia Treatment

Dysphagia Prevention

Dysphagia Diet

Dysphagia FAQ

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