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Treating Dysphagia

A medical evaluation helps your doctor pinpoint the cause of your dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. Your evaluation may include a health history and some special tests. Your doctor will make a treatment plan based on the results of your evaluation. You may need to take medications. In some cases, your doctor may suggest dilation of the esophagus or surgery.

What You Can Do

Health care provider handing bottle of pills to woman sitting on exam table.
Talk to your doctor before you take any medications.

To help control dysphagia, follow your treatment plan. Take all medications as directed. You also can help lessen your dysphagia symptoms by being careful about what and how you eat.

Medications

You may need medications to:

  • Neutralize or reduce stomach acids

  • Control esophagus muscle spasms

Esophagus Dilation

Dilation is a procedure that your doctor can use to widen the esophagus. It is most often done when a stricture, or narrowing of the esophagus, is causing your dysphagia. There are a number of ways your doctor can widen the esophagus. He or she can discuss them with you.

Eating Tips

  • Eat slowly in a relaxed setting.

  • Don’t talk while you eat.

  • Take small bites and chew slowly and thoroughly

  • Sit in an upright position during and after meals.

  • Ask your doctor about any special diets that may help, such as liquid diets.

  • If you have difficulty swallowing solid foods, you can use a blender to purée them.

  • Thicken liquids with milk, juice, broth, gravy, or starch to make swallowing easier.

Occupational or Speech Therapy

Your doctor may recommend that you have an evaluation or sessions with a speech or occupational therapist. These specialists in dysphagia may give you exercises and instructions to help you eat safely.

Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Last Review Date: 3/9/2013
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