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      A Disorder That is Hard to Swallow

      It's one thing to not care for those vegetables on your plate at dinner. It's something else entirely when you physically can't swallow them.

      Swallowing disorders are a big problem for some of our patients, whether as the result of a neurological condition, gastroesophageal reflux, or other chronic conditions.

      Swallowing disorders can stem from several areas: the mouth, tongue, throat or esophagus. Patients might experience a feeling that food is hard to swallow or is getting caught on the way down to the stomach. They also might experience pain, regurgitation, choking or coughing while eating or drinking.

      Sometimes, symptoms of a swallowing disorder occur even when you aren't eating or drinking. They might include a persistent sore throat, hoarseness, shortness of breath, chest pain, reflux, vomiting or needing extra time to chew.

      Aside from a physical exam, your doctor might want to do one or several tests before diagnosing a swallowing disorder. Those could include having an upper endoscopy, barium x-rays to check the swallowing mechanism or having a catheter inserted in your esophagus that measures pressures and relaxation.

      While those tests might sound unpleasant, they help doctors find potentially the right way to treat your symptoms. There are a range of options they might suggest:

      Medication: From muscle relaxers aimed at the esophagus to proton pump inhibitors to treat GERD, there are plenty of prescriptions to reduce or eliminate symptoms.

      Swallowing Therapy: Conducted by speech language pathologists, this therapy might include larynx closure exercises, tongue strengthening exercises or lip closure exercises.

      Surgical intervention: This might include loosening muscles, removing a pocket in the lining of the esophagus, or dilating narrowed areas in the esophagus.

      Behavior changes: This might include changing the position of your head when you swallow or changing the consistency, or texture, of problem foods.

      Our physicians are highly trained and can help you find the solution to putting those swallowing challenges behind you. If you are experiencing any symptoms of a swallowing disorder, contact Rockford Gastroenterology Associates to schedule an appointment and discuss the treatment that might be right for you.